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A Los Angeles Times-Marshall Project review of jails statewide showed only one pay-to-stay program outside Southern California — in Fremont, near San Francisco.
Most pay-to-stay jails have a sales pitch centered around security, but defendants also comparison-shop like consumers for amenities and flexibility.Wurtzel, a one-time real estate developer, was one of them.In 2004, six years before the assault on Markin, he was accused of sexually assaulting women he lured to his Pacific Palisades home through an ad for a live-in housekeeper.Markin learned about Wurtzel’s upgraded jail stay only recently, from a reporter. But what started out as an antidote to overcrowding has evolved into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays.An analysis by the Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times of the more than 3,500 people who served time in Southern California’s pay-to-stay programs from 2011 through 2015 found more than 160 participants who had been convicted of serious crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, battery, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.City jails in Orange County soon set up similar programs.
Today, there are nearly 200 city jail beds for rent in Los Angeles and Orange counties, which have taken the most advantage of the option, by far.
A legislative crackdown on drunk driving in the 1980s strained already overcrowded county jails, and a few small city jails with unused beds in Los Angeles County offered to take the spillover, as long as the inmate paid a daily rate for his or her costs.
The applications poured in, many from inmates worried about the risk of assault in crowded county lockups.
A racial breakdown of pay-to-stay participants could not be determined because complete data were unavailable.
Some defendants have done repeated stints in the pay-to-stay system, the analysis showed.
In those cases, judges can also allow a defendant to serve the time in a city jail.