Can Wealthy Criminals Really Pay For A Nicer Prison Cell?

Prison conditions in the U.S. are notoriously brutal. According to The Sentencing Project, it's believed that 2 million Americans were incarcerated in 2019. What can one expect while serving time in an American Prison? Insider writes that a majority of prisons in this country are overcrowded, which can result in a series of compromising issues.

Per the Equal Justice Initiative, overcrowding can lead to violence and both physical and sexual abuse. Additionally, those who are in need of specific care, whether it be medical or mental, are often refused treatment. The Human Rights Watch Prison Project notes that prisons are filthy and decaying. In other words, conditions are inhumane to say the least. A study done by Prison Policy Initiative in 2021 reported that suicides in prison have increased 85% since 2001.

Sadly, this is unsurprising, as being incarcerated can lead to isolation and a steep decline in mental health. In fact, the Vera Institute states that those with mental illness are more likely to end up in prison. This Is because incarceration does little to rehabilitate an offender and instead, inflicts or worsens trauma. As explained by the Brennan Center for Justice, it's likely someone will return to prison after their release. However, if money is no object, then one can experience a cushy prison experience for a small price (via The New York Post).

$100 can you get a lot in jail

According to HowStuffWorks, a typical jail cell consists of a small room with a metal bed and a toilet and sink. Although this is meant for one person, overcrowding can result in several people being placed in one cell. In 2015, The Orange County Register reported that several cities in Southern California were now offering upgraded cells for those willing to pay $100 (or more) a night. Per CNN, paying this fee gave inmates access to TV and computers. Some facilities even offered yoga, DVDs, and much more. They could also see visitors every day, as opposed to only on the weekends like at a regular facility.

Some could pay this fee to stay here for a few days or even a few years. Likewise, this type of cell is generally safer than an average cell. Thus, people are paying for protection. Per Insider, this system made millions between 2011 and 2015 and is referred to as "pay-to-stay." The New York Post writes that the majority of these paying inmates are serving time for DUI's.

Per Prison Legal News, this system is questionable to many. Some victims feel like they are not receiving justice when they see that their offender is living it up in prison. They have their own shower, unlimited access to phones, amongst other things. Although this was designed for non-violent criminals, the Los Angeles Times found that over 4% of paying inmates were involved in assault, robbery, and the sexual abuse of children.

This is how celebrities are treated in prison

In 2016, Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, "There are two legal systems, one for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else." (via Prison Legal News). This sentiment rings true for many regarding the pay-to-stay system and even when it comes to celebrities that are incarcerated. For example, when Paris Hilton went to jail in 2007, it's believed that she did not endure a cavity search like the other inmates (per Criminal Justice). Additionally, it's reported that Lindsay Lohan had privileges other inmates did not have when she was sent to jail in 2010. This included receiving food deliveries and visitors.

NBC News reports that in 2004, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart was sent to a prison referred to as "Camp Cupcake" in West Virginia. Formally known as FPC Alderson (seen above), Insider writes that inmates have access to emails, television, and more. Unlike a regular prison, inmates don't have cells, they have cottages. Talk Poverty alleges that the prison has tennis courts and a swimming pool. There are also various fitness classes and Stewart was said to have started a yoga class. According to People, she also took a pottery class while she was imprisoned.

In 2019, actress Felicity Huffman received similar treatment while she was locked up at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California (via Entertainment Weekly). Huffman had access to the outdoors and a series of creative activities such as painting.