Thursday, May 17, 2007

not too hard, not too soft

criminologists are often baffled by the sentences doled out to rich and famous defendants such as martha stewart. sometimes such folks are hammered for their celebrity, other times they get absurdly accommodating treatment.

now paris hilton is going to jail, which seems like the premise of a really bad summer movie. as punishment for violating the terms of her probation on a drunk-driving related offense, ms. hilton will serve about 23 days in a segregated jail unit. as anyone who has attempted to sleep in a jail can attest, the term segregated is important here. the scariest thing about jail -- the real deterrent, if you will -- is the prospect of mixing it up with much scarier inmates in a loosely-supervised environment. jails are typically far less orderly than prisons, since people are constantly moving in and out, and counties generally have fewer programming resources than state departments of correction. as a crude indicator of such strain, many first-time jail inmates determine that they really don't need to go to the bathroom for the first 4 or 5 days.

i'd bet that almost any academic could ride out the 23 days of boredom scheduled for ms. hilton, though we'd break down quickly if tossed into the LA county lock-up without any special treatment. as long as she remains in segregation, my guess is that ms. hilton will emerge unscathed from this experience -- and well-positioned for that cheesy legally-blonde-in-jail summer epic next year.

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