Seal Beach residents have been sold over the years on pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds into the city's private, pay-to-stay jail with promises it will make money from inmates who'd fund their incarcerations in the relatively nicer environs to avoid scummy county jail or state prison cells. But the joint, which has never drawn much of that clientele, is now estimated to be draining the city of $144,000 annually. So what does the City Council want to do? Why, keep it open, of course!
The council, as it always does, bought the police chief's argument: that using rent-a-cops as jailers frees up real cops who keep the mean streets of Seal Beach safer.
Never mind that the town was the site of the worst mass killing in Orange County history just last October, when that private jail was humming along, nor that the tragedy was followed by a string of strange and disturbing crimes.
Never mind that those rent-a-cops often find themselves inside rather than outside jail cells. In December, Jose Alday was charged with taking bribes from an inmate. In 2007, three Seal Beach jailers were sentenced to one to three years' probation and community service for stealing an inmate's Sony PlayStation and forging documents to cover up the crime. Another former Seal Beach jailer is said to have conspired with a former inmate to murder a Newport Beach couple in 2004.
Hell, interim Police Chief Robert Luman is right: crime is being kept off the streets and inside the jail.
In the face of at least one level-headed resident complaining that the city is running a "bed and breakfast," Luman claimed Monday night that the time beat cops save by not having to book and process bad guys, let alone oversee the jail, is worth the luxury. The acting chief also comically mentioned that the private jail loses no more money than public jails do--forgetting, of course, that public facilities are not designed to earn profits, while a for-profit facility is--it says so in the name.
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More seriously, it must've slipped ol' Bobby's mind that his predecessors repeatedly swore after this $200,000 infusion of taxpayer money to erase violations or that expenditure of $300,000 more to reopen the place after months of refurbishments, it would be a guaranteed money maker.
As Councilwoman Ellery Deaton reasoned in agreement with Luman, "Crime costs the city."
Some dare call it enabling.