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How To Do Jail Time With Class
Charlotte Allen, who wrote me a really sweet e-mail after Cathy Seipp died, has it on the money (the inheirited wealth, in Paris Hilton's case). From today's LA Times, how Martha Stewart went to jail:

Stewart seemed to have intuitively figured out something important: If you take your punishment with fortitude and grace, you may not only emerge a better person but be seen as a better person.

At the federal women's prison camp where she was confined, Stewart threw herself into becoming a model prisoner, humbly performing required yard work, giving cooking lessons to other inmates and working hard to shed the unpleasant persona she had acquired as a corporate chief executive: mean Martha, the impossible-to-please boss with a frightening temper.

On her release in March 2005, Stewart performed the ultimate penance. She donned an oversized, gray-and-white poncho knitted for her by a fellow prisoner, a garment so hideous that the faux-broken-English fashion blogger Manolo described it as looking as though "she made this herself out of thread she collected from the prison-issue blankets and the mop heads, using the toothbrush handle that had been laboriously fashioned into the dual-purpose crochet-hook/shiv."

Stewart wore the poncho to her first post-prison corporate meeting, and a roomful of employees broke into applause. Her company's stock shot back up, and Stewart is now something of a folk heroine.

Amazingly, Hilton actually did start down Stewart's path. Just before she checked herself into the women's facility in Lynwood for violating her probation by driving with a revoked license, Hilton told reporters that she had agreed not to do her time in an upscale, "pay-to-stay" jail: "I wanted to go to county, to show that I can do it, and I'm going to be treated like everyone else."

Yeah, right. For P.R. to work, you actually have to stay in jail for more than 20 minutes. Jail an awful place? Well, boo frigging hoo. I'm sure all those women in there who don't have Hilton's funding aren't too psychologically up about being there either.

I hope Sheriff Lee Baca, or whomever did their part to confirm that there are two forms of justice in this country -- one for the rich and another for the poor -- sees a better kind of justice: the kind that comes with unemployment checks and COBRA.

UPDATE: Ha! I like what Kate Coe calls Hilton's "unspecified medical condition": heiressitis.

Posted by aalkon at June 8, 2007 8:56 AM


And now Al Sharpton is getting in on the action:

Posted by: Flynne at June 8, 2007 6:40 AM

You know, I'd never been a big Martha fan, but when I saw her wearing that poncho, my opinion of her went up a few notches. It's possible she did everything she did in jail - including wearing that poncho - as a cold-blooded form of media manipulation, I suppose, but so what? I bet the woman who made the poncho still got a kick out of seeing it on TV.

Posted by: marion at June 8, 2007 8:24 AM

With you, marion.

It's not too much of a strain to pull a cynical face at Martha in her sackcloth-cum-poncho and decide it was rather well-played.

(It was also a damn sight more effective than Stewart's pre-jail press muggings - I recall one particularly ghastly intimate luncheon she served at her Hamptons home for a New Yorker hack - I think - designed to make her sound appealing. It kinda failed.)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 8:41 AM

Rumor has it that Paris was diagnosed with either optical rectumitus or halitosis of the blow hole.

Posted by: Roger at June 8, 2007 9:37 AM

My lawyer says her treatment has been typical for a first-time, non-violent offender LA's overcrowded jail system.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at June 8, 2007 10:19 AM

Dont you mean non-violent rich and famous offender?

I'd be willing to bet my life that if Paris a was black or brown woman from east LA driving a 1988 chevet she would have gotten more than 72 hours and house arrest

Posted by: lujlp at June 8, 2007 11:50 AM

Well it's a moot point now anyway:

Posted by: Flynne at June 8, 2007 12:36 PM

Wow!!! Flynne.

Oh god - now I feel a tiny bit sorry for her (yeah, stupid of me - but I honestly didn't think I had a trace of a kind thought left - and whaddya know...).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 12:41 PM

I advise you not to bet your life on that.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at June 8, 2007 12:47 PM


I'm clueless here - do you mean the "new" time in the slammer is unlikely to stand?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 12:53 PM

Oh, no -- sorry. I was responding to lujlp's hypothetical. I don't know; as much as I despise the woman, it smells a bit too much like a howling mob to me.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at June 8, 2007 1:29 PM

Few things to note, from a lawyer's FWIW file:

1. Generally speaking, its not unusual for nonviolent offenders to serve only 10% of their jail time due to overcrowding. So in that respect, Hilton's early release should really not be thought of as special treatment.

2. HOWEVER, to couch it in medical excuses is very unusual and typically unnecessary. Clearly, this is a major part of what ticked off the judge.

3. Also, just recently, Sheriff Lee Baca had come under fire for the 10% policy and had made a public announcement (prior to Hilton's arrest) that that policy would be mitigated. Lee Baca is a well-known Scientology supporter and star-fucker. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's tried to dole out preferential treatment to his celebrity buddies. (OK - that wasn't really lawyerly of me).

4. FINALLY, its VERY unusual for a Judge to get involved like this after a prisoner has been committed to custody. In theory, once custody is transferred to the Sheriff/Bureau of Corrections/Warden, those entities are usually granted a large amount of deference with regards to early release decisions. I'm pretty sure this division of powers issue will be the source of Hilton's appeal.

Posted by: snakeman99 at June 8, 2007 2:45 PM

Thank YOU, snakeman99

(from someone in the shallow end of the gene pool, hence her ridiculous interest...)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 3:49 PM

I don't know anything about Paris Hilton; I don't consider media hype to be enlightening.

Those of you betting on a difference between the Sheriff's handling of PH, be careful that you make a couple of distinctions: one, that she's the celebrity of the moment, and not the only one for whom strings appear to be pulled, and two, that jailing a billionaire celebrity is a nightmare for any prison system because of their obligation to see that no harm comes to their inmate.

Be the sheriff for a minute. How expensive is your new inmate, relative to the others? Ask your Sheriff how long (s)he'll hold a prostitute.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 8, 2007 6:26 PM

> her treatment has been typical
> for a first-time, non-violent
> offender

After months of careful study, I've concluded that the reason I always agree with Hrissikopoulos is that he's right.

> ridiculous interest...

Not at all, this is a 'prism' story that has something for everyone. My favorite angle is that it exposes the unwillingness of the taxpayer to pay for incarceration for America's criminal element...

...Of which the young, blonde, slender, rich, deeply sexual Hilton plays a very small part. But people hate Paris Hilton.

I know too much about this because of Work. But people talk about the cupcakes that were delivered to her the other night as if poorfolks never welcomed one of their own home from the pokey, either.

A dear friend of mine --similarly nebbish and middle-aged, and fond of drink befitting our Scots-Irish heritage-- once got arrested for driving drunk in Los Angeles. He went home after a grim night in the drunk tank. Why shouldn't that have happened to PH, except that people hate Paris Hilton?

Posted by: Crid at June 8, 2007 9:11 PM

Also, Martha Stewart was almost three times Hilton's age at the date of incarceration: We'd expect more from Stewart in such a circumstance, if only in the pursuit of her own interests (which to my knowledge, is all the superb home-decoration capitalist has ever pursued).

Posted by: Crid at June 8, 2007 9:15 PM

I just really hope, longshot that it is, that this provides the impetus she needs to make some changes in her life. Hopefully this will be a wakeup call for her.

Sigh. I expect I'm going to be disappointed.

Posted by: Elle at June 9, 2007 8:17 AM

I like the fact that she has "vowed" to serve her time. Like she has any choice, and it takes some kind of effort on her part to stay in jail. Plus she has found God already. "Oh there you are!" Bless.

Posted by: Norman at June 12, 2007 3:10 PM

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