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Sheen faces an uncommon jail in Colorado

If, as expected, the actor serves jail time in the wealthy enclave of Aspen, he will live where the floors are carpeted, the cells look like college dorms and hot meals are brought in from a hospital.
/ Source: TODAY news services

If, as expected, Charlie Sheen serves jail time in the wealthy enclave of Aspen, Colo., he will live where the floors are carpeted, the cells look like college dormitories and hot meals are brought in from a hospital.

No, this isn't Hollywood. There are no cells stacked one atop the other, no loud noise from raucous inmates, or hard time discipline sent down by a mean-spirited staff.

This is the Pitkin County Jail, where the inmates of Aspen are held.

"The punitive aspect is loss of your freedom and liberty, and that's as far as it goes," Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis told Reuters on Friday. "We want to release inmates in better shape than when they came in."

He said most inmates are in pretrial detention, and thus presumed innocent. They are incarcerated, he said, because they cannot make bond.

"Poor people stay in jail; rich men bond out," he said.

Sheen, an award-winning actor and star of hit comedy "Two and a Half Men" is hardly poor, but he is in trouble.

On Monday, he is widely expected to plead no contest to assaulting his wife in Aspen, where the Pitkin County government is based, and be sentenced to as much as 30 days in the jail. He landed there for a short stint when arrested in December on Christmas Day, before posting bond.

Braudis played a guiding role in the county's construction of the jail in 1984, which replaced a five-bed cage in the Pitkin County Courthouse, and he was determined to build a "humane facility" with direct supervision of inmates.

"Our staff is inside with them," Braudis said. "They talk to them, listen to them, eat with them. It reduces assaults, both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff."

Aspen, of course, is the famous ski resort town known worldwide as a home to Hollywood celebrities, wealthy businessmen and women and powerful politicians.

On the county's website, the jail's mission calls for "a safe, secure" environment and services to "enhance physical and mental wellness and encourage self rehabilitation and successful re-integration to society for all inmates."

Prisoners spend most of their days and evenings in a common room, where they can read, watch television, play cards and socialize. They can make collect phone calls, use mail service, visit with relatives and friends and exercise regularly.

There is a fenced-in area in the jail's parking lot where inmates can spend time outdoors.

The jail's capacity is 24 people. This time of year the population averages around 15, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marie Munday. Twelve people staff the facility.

"Our staff is not hacks or screws, as they're called in other jails," Braudis said. "They're well-educated people who have been members of our community for some time. It is a community jail, where, if your son or daughter goes to jail, you're comfortable with it."

Breakfast is cold cereal or oatmeal heated in a microwave. For lunch and dinner, one of the staff drives two miles to Aspen Valley Hospital to pick up meals. Inmates and staff eat the same dietician-supervised meals as hospital patients do.

"The tabloids got upset when Charlie (Sheen) got prime rib on Christmas, but it's what the hospital served," Munday said.

Deal to work in theater?Attorneys for Sheen also have approached a Colorado nonprofit theater about having the actor do public service work as part of a plea deal in his domestic violence case, the theater's artistic director said Friday.

Sheen's duties, if the deal is approved, would include teaching a class and helping with Theatre Aspen's three summer shows, Paige Price said.

"I certainly think he has the career credentials," she said. "And he could possibly teach a class or do question-and-answer sessions. If this could benefit the Theatre Aspen's actors or students, I would certainly be amenable to it."

Pitkin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin said Friday that he expected a judge to approve the deal Monday. But he said he couldn't provide details on the agreement, other than to confirm there have been discussions about having Sheen do "useful public service" with the theater.

Sheen's agent, Stan Rosenfield, told The Associated Press he couldn't comment on a proposed deal "out of respect to the court until the judge rules."

Mordkin said Sheen is being treated like any other Aspen resident charged with the same crime.

"He's really not getting anything different than the average person under similar circumstances would receive," he said.