Earlier today, I wrote about New York's cheapest hotel, where $10 buys a room that's a little smaller than a prison cell -- and not nearly as nice. A San Francisco-area city is now offering the opposite service: For a price, scofflaws can get a deluxe jail cell that, while not quite hotel-grade, is still miles better than the standard prison accommodations -- much less New York's Sun Bright hotel!
In 2002, Fremont built a $10.6 million, 58-bed detention center. While the facility don't quite qualify as five-star, is still a lot nicer than the local prisons, where gang affiliations and overcrowding can make a stay harrowing, to say the least.
The Fremont detention center is rarely filled to capacity -- a factor that led town officials to offer the space as a pay-to-stay prison. Under the new program, healthy, nonviolent offenders who don't have a gang affiliation and have not been convicted of a sex crime can stay in one of Fremont's cells for $155 per night, with a one-time $45 fee.
For the jail's new occupants, many of whom will likely come from rich enclaves in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the benefits are obvious: The program enables them to avoid the general population in one of the area's overcrowded prisons. For Fremont, it's also a great deal: It costs the city only $8.35 per night to take care of its prisoners, which means that it realizes almost $147 a night of profit for every bed it fills.
Fremont is hardly the first California city to open a pay-to-stay prison: There are approximately 15 such programs in Southern California, with rates ranging from $85 to $255 per day. This is, however, the first in the Bay Area -- a region whose extremely wealthy citizenry would seem to make it especially fertile ground for such a program.
Other states have experimented with pay-to-stay prisons, but most don't offer California's two-tiered system. In Michigan and Ohio, pay-to-stay jails attempt to charge every inmate, often on a sliding scale that takes into account their earnings, dependents, and other financial data. In addition to creating a lot of paperwork, the programs aren't nearly as lucrative as one might expect: Ohio's Fairfield county, for example, was only able to recover about 12 percent of the charges that it levied on inmates.
It remains to be seen how profitable Fremont's plan will be, but -- given California's statewide prison problems and budget woes -- it looks like the small city just may have found a way to make crime pay.
Famous Financial Felons
Fremont's Pay-to-Stay Jail Offers a More Pleasant Prison Experience
When it comes to the stock market, lately it seems nice guys finish last. But there are plenty of renegades of high finance who have ran afoul of the law and had to pay the price -- including jail time.
Click through our gallery as BloggingStocks writers take a look at what 17 famous financial felons are up to since their newsworthy convictions.
His Crime: Ivan Boesky rose to fame and fortune during the 1980s by taking huge positions in companies that were about to be taken over. But he was charged and found guilty of stock manipulation and insider trading in '86.
What He's Doing Now: These days, Boesky lives quietly, and claims to have lost everything (rumors have it that alimony from his ex-wife supports him). Some suspect, however, that he may have squirreled away a few million overseas.
· More on Ivan Boesky Next: Jeffrey Skilling
His Crime: Jeffrey Skilling was the Enron CEO who tried to pin the blame for its 2001 bankruptcy on anyone but himself. He was not able to convince a jury, however.
What He's Doing Now: Skilling is serving a 24-year sentence -- double that of other Enron convicts -- and will be about 74 years old when he is released, unless he gets pardoned by the current president, wins an appeal, or gets out early on parole.
· More on Jeffrey Skilling
Her Crime: The domestic diva dumped her shares of ImClone Systems the day before bad news tanked the stock. Found guilty of insider trading, Stewart spent five months at "Camp Cupcake" and another five on house arrest.
What She's Doing Now: Stewart continues contributing to her former company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and has new TV gigs, including an ill-fated 'Apprentice' spin-off and a new self-deprecating show, 'Whatever, Martha!'.
· More on Martha Stewart Next: Dennis Kozlowski
His Crime: In 2005, former CEO of Tyco International Dennis Kozlowski was convicted of misappropriating more than $400 million of the company's funds. He denied doing anything wrong, insisting that he was punished by the jury for the size of his compensation package and for his notoriously lavish lifestyle.
What He's Doing Now: Kozlowski is currently serving a minimum of eight years and four months in prison.
· More on Dennis Kozlowski
His Crime: Boris Berezovsky is a former Russian oligarch turned exiled dissident and vocal critic of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. A Moscow court found him guilty in absentia of fraud and embezzlement.
What He's Doing Now: Berezovsky lives in London. He has political asylum, but says he wants to return to Russia "after Putin collapses." If he went back now he could very well find himself locked up in Siberia like some fellow former oligarchs. · More on Boris Berezovsky Next: Nick Leeson
His Crime: Ebbers built WorldCom into the world's largest telephone company. Then the company improperly booked $11 billion in revenues and Ebbers received $400 million in off-the-books loans from the company.
What He's Doing Now: Ebbers is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a Lousiana prison on criminal fraud charges related to the case. He has just asked President Bush for a pardon in the final days of his presidency.
· More on Bernard Ebbers
His Crime: The unsupervised speculative trading of derivatives trader Nick Leeson caused the collapse of Barings Bank, the United Kingdom's oldest investment bank in 1995.
What He's Doing Now: Leeson served four years in a Singapore prison, where he wrote his memoirs (which were turned into a movie) and survived colon cancer. He then moved to Ireland where he remarried, had three children and became CEO of the Galway United Football Club. · More on Nick Leeson Next: Lou Pearlman
His Crime: In 2006, it came to light that the former boy band manager and talent scout had perpetrated one of the biggest and longest running Ponzi schemes in American history. He pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and money laundering.
What He's Doing Now: Pearlman was transferred out of the Orange County jail to serve the remainder of his 25-year sentence in a federal prison. He has been ordered to pay back $300 million to his former investors. · More on Lou Pearlman Next: Barry Minkow
His Crime: For several years back in the 1980s, a teenaged Barry Minkow passed himself off as the proprietor of a successful carpet-cleaning company that didn't in fact exist. The fraud ended up costing investors an estimated $100 million.
What He's Doing Now: Minkow served only seven years of a 25-year sentence. Today he is senior pastor of a church in San Diego and a recognized expert on fraud. · More on Barry Minkow
His Crime: Once an apparent shoo-in to be president of Archer Daniels Midland, he turned whistleblower and admitted his part in a global price-fixing scheme. Despite assisting the FBI in its investigation, he was convicted of embezzlement and fraud and served 8 years in prison.
What He's Doing Now: Whitacre now works for a biotech company focused on cancer prevention research. Efforts to win him a pardon continue. · More on Mark Whitacre
His Crime: The names Ken Lay and Enron became synonymous with corporate abuse and accounting fraud after the 2001 corruption scandal that led to the company's downfall. In 2006, Lay was found guilty of securities fraud and related charges.
What He's Doing Now: In 2006, Lay had a heart attack and died while vacationing in Colorado. Because he hadn’t been sentenced yet, his conviction was vacated in Federal Court.
· More on Ken Lay Next: Michael Milken
His Crime: Milken turned the market for junk bonds into a gold mine for himself and Drexel Burnham. In a plea bargain, he agreed to pay $650 million in fines and plead nolo contendere to a few counts of stock parking and stock manipulation.
What He's Doing Now: Milken made Forbes' list of the world richest in 2007, and he continues to devote much of his time and money to charitable efforts, including seeking a cure for cancer. · More on Michael Milken
His Crime: John Rigas and his son allegedly used Adelphia, the company they founded, as their personal piggy bank, driving the company to bankruptcy. In 2004, they were convicted of concealing $2.3 billion in loans in small companies left off Adelphia's books.
What He's Doing Now: A judge said 82-year-old Rigas could be released early from his 15-year sentence if a prison doctor determines he has less than 3 months to live. · More on John Rigas Next: Charles Keating
His Crime: Charles Keating is best remembered for his role in the S&L scandal of the 1980s and for his association with and financial contributions to U.S. senators -- the so-called Keating Five -- to secure preferential treatment from regulators.
What He's Doing Now: Keating, who now works in real estate in Phoenix, refused comment about the Keating Five during John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. · More on Charles Keating
His Crime: This well-connected lobbyist pled guilty in 2006 to defrauding American Indian tribes and the corruption of public officials. In 2008 he was found guilty of trading expensive gifts and sports trips for political favors.
What He's Doing Now: While imprisoned, Abramoff is cooperating in a bribery investigation involving lawmakers and members of the Bush administration. · More on Jack Abramoff
His Crime: Though better known for his social activism and philanthropy, billionaire investor Soros was fined $2 million by a French court in 2002 for insider trading of shares of Société Générale. On appeal, France's highest court upheld the ruling in 2006.
What He's Doing Now: A supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Soros also continues to support causes like democratizing Eastern Europe and eradicating poverty in Africa.
· More on George Soros
His Crime: Andrew Fastow, Enron's CFO, was a key figure behind the limited partnerships used to conceal massive losses. His wife Lea pled guilty to submitting a fraudulent income tax return without profits from her husband's off-the-books partnerships.
What He's Doing Now: While she served one year in prison and then was released to a halfway house, her husband is currently serving a six-year sentence. · More on the Fastows
What's the average Joe or Jane to do after their stint on a reality TV show is over? Dozens of past show participants, like Theo Von and Toni Ferrari, have been able to extend their 15 minutes of fame by jumping from one reality show to another. But there are only a handful who have been able to spawn legitimate post-show careers
Click through our gallery as we take a look at 12 reality TV stars who have cashed in.