New trend: Inmates rate jails on Yelp

"Jail food may get a bad rap ... but jail EMPLOYEE food is off the chain"

By Caitlin Dewey
The Washington Post

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Lawyer Robert Miller has visited five prisons and 17 jails in his lifetime, but he has reviewed only three on Yelp.

His most recent review lauds the cleanliness, urban setting and "very nice" deputies.

Miller gave it five out of five stars.

As Miller acknowledges, it's not the kind of helpful testimonial commonly found on Yelp, the popular consumer reviews site many people turn to for recommendations on, say, bowling alleys and Chinese takeout.

But as Yelp grows more popular - logging 36 million reviews as of last quarter - lawyers as well as prison inmates and their family members have turned to the site to report mediocre food and allegations of serious abuse.

"Jail food may get a bad rap ... but jail EMPLOYEE food is off the chain," wrote one woman of a local jail cafeteria.

Accuracy is, of course, a major concern with Yelp reviews of any type. In June 2012, a reviewer alleged that five guards at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles beat him for no reason.

"Every allegation we get, we investigate," said Stephen Whitmore, spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

"But this Yelp phenomenon I find curious. Jail isn't a restaurant. It isn't seeing a movie. You're doing time for committing a crime."

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