Monday, June 11, 2007

What I Think About Paris Hilton

I'm really not one for celebrity gossip but this news (and I use the term loosely) item had some good correctional teaching points so I thought I'd address it. Besides, it's just a matter of time before somebody drops a question to My Three Shrinks asking my opinion about Paris Hilton and her jail status.

So here goes:

Looking at this from the Sheriff's viewpoint, I can imagine what was going through his mind. He's got a new inmate who is:

1. a high profile case
2. a previously upstanding citizen
3. crying, distressed and not eating
4. has a known mental disorder (in treatment at arrest)
5. has an active substance abuse problem
6. is in isolation in a single cell
7. is serving a relatively short sentence
8. is within 24 to 48 hours of incarceration

Egad. The next thing this Sheriff is going to imagine is Paris Hilton hanging dead in a jail cell. She has eight separate risk factors for a correctional suicide and it is not good to have a dead celebrity in your facility. Ideally, the proper intervention would be to get her referred for crisis intervention services as quickly as possible. Educate her about what to expect and how the incarceration will run. Get her referred for psychiatric evaluation and pharmacology, if indicated. If all else fails, use suicide observation to preserve safety. I don't know the LA jail or what resources they have; given her relatively short sentence the Sheriff may have felt the more efficient alternative was to release her to home detention.

Home detention is a good tool used to reduce institutional crowding but it is limited to people with relatively short times left on their sentences and to non-violent offenders. Given that she only had less than a month to serve, keeping her in jail was a waste of space. In Charm City she probably would not have been incarcerated for a first probation violation; I think she probably was treated more harshly than the average defendant. Maybe this was because of her celebrity status or maybe she didn't present herself well in court. In our prison system the decision to put someone in home detention is made without judicial input; it's the institution's perogative to assign someone there.

She was being kept in a single cell because of her celebrity status, but she was seen crying and not eating there. Most completed correctional suicides are done by inmates in single cell status. The facility would have had a reasonable concern about maintaining her safety under these circumstances. One option would have been to put her on suicide watch involuntarily, but again this involves a fair amount of embarrassment and discomfort to the person you're doing this to. I understand she is now housed in a special needs unit where she is being monitored, another reasonable alternative. The term "special needs unit" refers to a specific tier or placement within a facility for vulnerable inmates who require therapeutic monitoring. It is not the same as protective custody in that a special needs unit is controlled and regulated by mental health staff. People with chronic serous mental illnesses or developmental disabilities may be housed on a special needs unit. Every facility does not have a special needs unit; they usually just exist in larger (over 500 beds) facilities so your average small local county jail may not have one.

So that's what I think. I'm sure she'd be welcome back at the Charm City zoo or the local television station anytime. As long as she doesn't drink.


Anonymous said...

I am sure that Ms. Hilton will make it through her time incarcerated. Although, I do not agree with her serving time in jail, home arrest would be just fine for me, I believe we have to look at the Judge that sentenced her. Just her show could have made this Judge angry. Her status could be coloring how this Judge feels about her. Election time always shows that Judges will be harder on defendent's. Someone google this Judge. Here is the person with the mental least where celebrity status is foremost. Justice or personal vendetta?

KC Saul said...

In my area, you would spend 24 hours in jail just for driving drunk no matter what your BAC. And coming to Court with the attitude that she didn't know that her license was suspended (when there are huge documents with big letters that you sign to that effect), and that Other People were responsible for keeping track of those things, is a really, really good way to communicate to the judge that you don't think you're accountable.

And driving on a suspended license that was suspended because you were a drunk driver is a really good way to get locked up, anyway. Judges do look at that kind of violation differently than the kind of violation of a suspended license that occurs because you get too many 72/55 speeding tickets and DMV automatically suspends your license.

So yeah, her attitude mattered a lot. And the judge wanted to make sure that she was treated the same as anyone else.

We can debate "substance abuse problem" all day long, but it isn't the drinking that's the problem, it's the choosing-to-get-behind-the-wheel-drunk that's the problem. Eventually, you spend enough time locked up, you may not stop drinking, but you will find another way to get from point A to point B. Especially someone like Paris Hilton, who can afford a driver.

Yeah, yeah, denial. Yeah, yeah, disease. How are you going to figure out that you have a disease if everyone makes excuses for your behavior -- even when you put the lives of others at risk?

Taking away Paris Hilton's driving privileges didn't work because she said out loud to the judge that Other People are in charge of her driving status, and it wasn't her responsibility, and she shouldn't be expected to know. That has nothing to do with an addiction problem and everything to do with a sense of entitlement and lack of concern for anything other than her own agenda. That gave this judge absolutely no choice with regard to enforcement.

DrivingMissMolly said...

She violated probation twice.

I don't feel any kind of sympathy for her.

There are "real " people like me who battle "real" mental illness every day and aren't blessed with the priviledges her affluence affords her, including, apparently, having a psychiatrist in her pocket.


Anonymous said...

She would never commit suicide in prison. She might say she would to get out of going to prison.
That is an interesting and convenient mental illness. One minute she is ill and the next, when it appeared she was going to get to stay home, she was ready for a big party.
Her illness is that she can't take any responsibilty for her actions because she has never had to.
In the long run it is better for her to stay and serve her time because when she writes that memoir no one will come back and question the facts as in Million Little Pieces.

sophizo said...

I think she got what she deserved. Maybe the sentence was a bit harsh in terms of length...but still! She had to learn at some point that she was not above the law. I just think it's sad she used a psychiatrist as her "Get out of jail free" card. Of course jail is going to be rough...what did she expect? I did read somewhere (I think that she chose to go to the local jail rather than the jail she could pay a daily fee for. I'll at least give her props for that. It will sure be interesting to see if she ever drives drunk again after this harsh lesson.

Sarebear said...

I don't know . . . rich people can have mental disorders, illnesses, and whatnot, too . . . she obviously isn't the most well-adjusted person on the planet . . . seems to have ideas and ideals that are out of sync with reality (which isn't an excuse, or an illness by itself; she was kinda raised that way), but when your perception of the world IS out of sync with the way it ACTUALLY is, that can be a difficult thing, no matter whether you are rich or not, or whether it's because your ideas, your "world" inside you is about doing whatever you want, or whatnot . . . this sort of thing is why I always, from the time I was old enough to hope and wish I could access a psychologist or iatrist (about age 13 or so); Of course, now we know I have various illnesses, disorders, etc., but I KNOW how rather difficult trying to exist in a world that seems to operate on a different plane than you.

Even if that plane, ideas, personality seems to be or is an irresponsible, entitled-feeling one . . . that really isn't the point, when it comes to trying to cope, trying to go on, as the person you are, as the human being inside that you are. It really isn't the point when it comes to needing a psychiatrist or whatnot; she has a psyche, a personality, feelings, cognitive processes, etc. like us all (in the way of process, ie, the human experience of life, not in the way of content, lifestyle, social circles, etc.)

Now, I'm not trying to say what she did wasn't wrong; imho, it was. And imho, something like at least a little jail, I think, was a wake-up. That said, I can also sympathize with the horrid emotional turmoil she must be experienceing, the fear and uncertainty and stuff, because I am a person too, albeit without anything like her experiences in content, I can relate to facing frightening consequences of one's actions, I can relate by imagination of being lost and alone on the streets, homeless, with nowhere to turn, perhaps, as possibly being part of what she might be going through, as far as being a situation I imagine and fear for myself.

I can feel all that empathy, while also disliking her behavior and immaturity. I can feel the feelings of kindness and concern for her well-being as a fellow being in distress, in a situation that's way over her head, where she's in deep water and no shore, help, or surcease in sight, while at the same time abhoring the drunken driving, etc.

Anyway, I just thought I'd post this. To show my point of view.

Thanks for the post, Clink; it was very informative from an inside the system (or similar system) point of view.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think she’ll act dumb anymore. She’ll prob. go to university, get a degree in some higher field, and cure cancer. And, lest we forget the pout face (See it here), we’ll never see that again. Mores the pity.

rachdickey said...

I feel bad for Paris. Yes, she made some mistakes but I think she deserves care and that she is really suffering and deserves to have her mental health needs meant. Thank you for noting that she does have suicidal risks, I don't think many people realize that and I think it is something that needed to be addressed.

Daniel said...

C'mon...she's Paris Hilton! Let her hang.