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Southeast : ‘Privatized’ Jail to Charge Inmates

Prisoners aren’t expected to feel like guests in a hotel, but wardens these days may be behaving more like innkeepers, worrying about their occupancy rates and profit margins.

At least in Montebello.

The City Council on Tuesday approved “privatization” of the newly renovated jail that had been out of commission since the early 1980s because of escalating costs.

Montebello police have been paying $50 a head to book people at the Monterey Park jail--or nearly triple that price at L.A. County Jail. Booking fees at both facilities are climbing, although neither charges the city to house its sentenced prisoners.

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Yet, for about the same $225,000 that Montebello pays annually in booking fees, it has hired a private jail management company, Corrections Services Inc. of Aliso Viejo, to operate a jail that can accommodate 22 prisoners.

Only low-risk, nonviolent prisoners sentenced for violations of the municipal code will be housed in the jailhouse. Prisoners will be charged $65 a day to stay in the new facility; those who don’t want to pay the price can stay free at the county jail. A 60% occupancy rate is expected to generate about $134,000 for the city’s General Fund.

“The more, the merrier,” said police Capt. Mike Gonzalez. “But we’re not going to try to maximize all the time. If we can maintain a 60% occupancy, we’ll be happy.”


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