Sitting at a picnic table under azure skies last fall, a 37-year-old one-time CEO of a financial services company contemplated his good fortune.
Sure, he was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and lunch was frozen hot dogs and string beans being thawed in a bare-bones kitchen. But the alternative was Orange County jail, where he would be warehoused in barracks with hundreds of others, where alliances ran along racial lines and fights broke out daily.
Jack, who asked to be identified by his nickname because his young children thought he’s in New York on an extended business trip, was paying $100 a night for the privilege of serving his 90-day sentence for driving under the influence of heroin in Seal Beach’s pay-to-stay jail.
“This is like paradise,” the Orange County man said.
He got a taste of the more typical jail experience when he served his first 17 days in Orange County’s Theo Lacy Jail. He said his defense attorney was able to get the case transferred to a different judge and get him pay-to-stay jail for the remainder of his sentence.
He handed over a $7,300 cashier’s check without hesitation. Here in Seal Beach, he was sharing his quarters with three 20-somethings. There was a large selection of DVDs and books, the hot water never ran out, and he was treated like a human being, he said.
In the marketplace of jail beds for rent in Southern California, Seal Beach has gained a reputation as the go-to jail for many deep-pocketed offenders.
Seal Beach’s pay-to-stay program generates more revenue than any other city in L.A. and Orange counties, a review of records shows. In the fiscal year ending last June, Seal Beach took in $365,000 from paying inmates, making up close to half of the jail’s total budget of $766,662. The city received 24% more pay-to-stay revenue than Anaheim, the second-most lucrative facility in the Times-Marshall Project review.more...