A first-time DUI offender in Tennessee must serve a minimum of 48 hours in jail. However, Rutherford County convicts can opt to serve their jail time at “camp DUI,” more formally known as the “DUI Education Center.” Your stay at this “jail alternative” comes with a cost of around $100 per night. Accommodations include flat-screen TVs, lunch and dinner on Saturday (if you book a weekend stay), your own bed and linens, and complimentary Wi-Fi; cellphones and laptops are welcome. The facility’s website recommends that you “pack as if you’re going camping.” You can even bring your own food and place it in the provided refrigerator or freezer. The facility is smoke-free, as smoking is permitted only in the designated outside areas.
Proponents of the facility cite its alcohol treatment programs. After all, a primary goal of sentencing should be to rehabilitate the offender. Critics argue that “jail time” loses its deterrent effect if it is more like summer camp than being under lock and key. For example, if an inmate misbehaves in jail, he or she is disciplined per the jail’s procedures, which may include additional criminal charges, depending on the nature and severity of the misconduct. If a “guest” misbehaves at the DUI Education Center, he or she is simply shown the door, in much the same way as an out-of-sorts hotel patron.
The DUI center accepts those sentenced to jail in other counties if the local judge signs off on it. Camp DUI also offers a “legacy program” of sorts: extended stay options for those facing enhanced DUI sentences as second or third-time offenders.