Like many young women preparing for the weekend, hairdresser Kaylin Ransom has her nails done and picks out her nicest clothes.
But then she drives more than an hour for a weekly appointment she can't miss: having her mug shot taken at the county jail. Every Friday for the past six months, Ransom has traveled to the Lake County Jail as part of her 90-day weekend sentence on aggravated-battery and child-abuse charges.
"Mentally, it kills you because you have to turn yourself in," said the 22-year-old Ocala mother. "In those two days, you probably think about more than someone who's been confined for years."
But the self-described strong-minded "weekender" has found a way to deal with it. Before she has to report to the jail at 5 p.m. every Friday, Ransom undergoes a beauty routine. She draws in her eyebrows, glues on fake eyelashes, chooses a weave and plans the pose she will strike for her booking photo.
The result: Thirty different looks. Thirty different smiles. Thirty different chances to have her glamour shot appear on the Lake County Sheriff's Office website.
Ransom's uncommon weekends-only sentence was part of a plea agreement after she was arrested and accused of hitting a rival woman with a baseball bat and throwing her kids out of the car.
Most county jails that allow weekend time to be served don't keep a separate count of the number of people serving these types of sentences because they move in and out of the system quickly, officials said. Weekenders are lumped in with the roster of people participating in other weekend programs — such as work release and community service, which change weekly.
Sgt. John Meeks of the Lake County Jail said there is no extra cost in accommodating weekenders because jails are regularly staffed and there are a relatively small number of them.
Some judges will consider weekend jail time for defendants who aren't deemed dangers to the community or for those with minor, nonviolent offenses, lawyers said. Criminal-defense lawyer Michael Graves said other mitigating circumstances — if someone is a single parent, needs medical treatment or has a stable job — could sway a judge to agree to the weekends-only sentence.
That was true in Ransom's case, her attorney said.
"If she had gone straight to jail, she would've lost her job and couldn't support her children. Everyone understood that," said lawyer Ben Boylston. "In certain cases, weekend jail is a good outcome that works for everyone, but it's a solution that is not appropriate for every case."
Sara Smith, who was the Lake County prosecutor in Ransom's case, said weekend sentences are usually done with the victim's approval — particularly in cases that involve restitution. A defendant who loses a job can't pay back what is owed.
Still, there are some critics, including Toby Hunt, a prosecutor in the 5th Judicial Circuit.
"The criminal-justice system is designed to punish the offender — not to make things more convenient for them," he said.
In addition to Lake, both the Polk and Osceola county jails allow sentences to be served during weekends. Orange and Seminole counties do not, officials said. Allen Moore of the Orange County jail said it's inefficient and unneeded because they operate their own alternative programs—like community service—for low-risk offenders during the week. Others said they fear such inmates may be exploited as a conduit for smuggling contraband into the jail.
Ransom uses her weekly, 48-hour stints of incarceration to "think about how to better myself as a mother and sister," she said. "Sometimes I strategize on ways of being richer. The whole weekend I just strategize."
With only a few weeks left, Ransom, who is the single mother of a toddler, is grateful the sentence has kept her out of the nightclubs — where she said trouble tended to find her.
"My son motivates me because I have to do right by him to be there for him," she said. "Jail time is what you make of it."
Arelis Hernandez can be reached at email@example.com or 352-742-5934.