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Fremont’s Pay-to-Stay jail program allows some convicts to avoid tougher facilities

Here’s one of two stories running in tomorrow’s paper:

FREMONT — The rooms are tiny, windowless and furnished with cots next to a tiny toilet and sink. Guests get three square but unspectacular meals a day. Prior to check in, a court order is required.

The charge for a not-so-leisurely stay in the Fremont Police Detention Facility’s Pay-to-Stay program? At $155 daily, with a one-time fee of $45, it’s nearly the same as a standard room in a nearby hotel.

But revenue-hungry Fremont officials hope those convicted of misdemeanors in Alameda County courts will conclude that the benefits of the new Pay-to-Stay program — the first of its kind in the Bay Area — are worth the cost. Inmates with brief sentences can serve their time on weeknights close to home, avoiding the larger and rougher county jails in Oakland and Dublin.

“It’s still a jail; there’s no special treatment,” said Lt. Mark Devine, a Fremont police official who oversees the program. “They get the same cot, blanket and food as anybody in the county jail, except that our jail is smaller, quieter and away from the county jail population.”

Don’t bother looking for Yelp reviews — the Pay-to-Stay program is new and has yet to welcome its first guest. Devine acknowledges that the county looked at hotel rates when setting the price, “so we’re not gouging anybody.” Like a hotel, there’s soap, towels and even free toothpaste — everything but the freedom to check out and walk away.

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Chris DeBenedetti