The Racist Heiress America Loves and Hates and Our Criminal Justice System

Date Put forth on June 10, 2007 by XicanoPwr
Category Posted in Civil Rights, Immigration, News/Noticias, Racism, Raza

Forgive me; I could no longer keep my mouth shut about the travesty that is currently taking place in this country. I assumed I was done talking about Paris Hilton, the racist heiress America loves and hates, but such is not the case. I am really shocked at the resources which are clearly being devoted to cover the whole Paris Hilton affair. Even though there are people calling for government accountability among the public and by a few politicians, American media continues to be guilty of negligence when it comes to delivering critical news. The first question I have is why does America continue to consider Pair Hilton’s escapades newsworthy? How is it possible that a socialite’s fate is considered more important than issues like immigration, the G8 summit, global warming, or other world affecting news???

Instead of adding to the endless junk reporting that continues to dumb down America, I will use this opportunity to reflect on the distinction between the rich and the poor when it comes to incarceration, and the deception by the media, the talking heads, and white culture in justifying Paris Hilton. The intersection of racial dynamics within the criminal justice system has long been a concern. The problem of whether those in prison tend to be drawn from the ranks of the poor, unemployed, and low social status is indicative of willful discrimination against the underprivileged.

First, some background information regarding Paris Hilton’s jail sentence. One thing must be clarified: Paris is not going to jail for minor traffic violation; the reality is, she was caught driving under the influence and is being sent to prison for violating her probation. On Sept. 7, 2006, police arrested Paris Hilton in Hollywood on suspicion of driving under the influence after she was spotted “driving erratically” while out to pick up a late-night burger. Hilton was charged with a misdemeanor for driving under the influence and in January, her lawyers entered not guilty pleas for driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above. Less than a week later, Paris was pulled over again, knowing that her license was suspended in connection with the September DUI charge, and after she had signed a document acknowledging she was not supposed to drive. This forced her to make a plea of “no contest” in order to reduce her charges of alcohol-related reckless driving. The pleas earned her three years of probation and a $1,500 fine. Paris also was told by the court to enroll in an alcohol education program, which she failed to do within 21 days of her sentencing.

Did any of that stop her? Hell no! One month later, she was stopped again by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies after dark for driving 70 mph in a 35 mph zone with a suspended license and “without her headlights on.” Because it was the third time she violated her probation, in May, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer sentenced Hilton to 45 days in the Century Regional Detention Facility. In his order, Sauer also stipulates that Hilton is not allowed a work furlough nor she is eligible for electronic monitoring.

What makes this story strange is the sheriff who does not want poor little Paris to go to jail. On May 16, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, citing sentencing guidelines, decided that the hotel heiress would only serve 23 days in a special unit away from the general prison population. Once the inmates heard about this they were angry, since Paris was already getting special treatment, according to an old CBS article that suddenly disappeared. A copy of the article from Google’s cache:

Susannah Johnson, who was released Saturday after a one-day stay at the jail, said many inmates were angry at Hilton, believing officials were making room for the starlet at the expense of others coping with crowded conditions.

“The only advice I could give her when she comes is to shut her mouth and do the time,” said Johnson, 35, of Claremont.

After serving three days in a 100 square foot “administrative segregation” cell and after her lawyers reported she was fine, Hilton was suddenly released because of an “undisclosed medical condition.” Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca took it upon himself to violate California law by reversing the judge’s order and decided that Paris would be placed under house arrest in her multimillion Hollywood Hills mansion where she is ordered to wear an electronic monitor bracelet with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 square feet for the next 40 days. This is so hypocritical because right before she was to serve her time in la pinta (Spanish slang for da joint), she told reporters how she turned down the possibility of serving her 23-day sentence in an upmarket jail because she needed to prove she is “like everyone else.”

“I am trying to be strong right now,” Paris said of her jail time set to begin Tuesday. “I’m really scared but I’m ready to face my sentence.”

“I did have a choice to go to a pay jail,” said Hilton, without giving details. “But I declined because I feel like the media portrays me in a way that I’m not and that’s why I wanted to go to county, to show that I can do it and I’m going to be treated like everyone else. I’m going to do the time, I’m going to do it the right way.”

Baca claimed his decision had nothing to do with preferential treatment of a celebrity and that his decision was based on medical advice. On Friday, Judge Sauer would have none of that and overturned Sheriff Baca’s decision to allow Paris to serve the remainder of her time at home. In other words, she will be serving her full 45-days in da joint for violating parole on her reckless driving charge. During a hearing, the judge said he had not been provided facts of the medical condition that apparently prompted her release. However, there is speculation she had a nervous breakdown, but the judge was not given any further details of her breakdown by her psychiatrist. Also during the hearing it was reported that Paris cried uncontrollably, dabbing her eyes, as her body was shaking constantly. Several times, she turned to her parents, seated behind her in the courtroom, and mouthed, “I love you.”

Now people are taking sides, as the issue of the celebrity incarcerations has become a polarizing topic. One Net magazine, The Online Wire, asks why were people happy to see Paris Hilton carted off to da joint? The answer is simple. The inequity here is pretty stark, particularly when it relates to sentencing. Just because racial discrimination is not as explicit as it was 50 years ago does not mean it does not exist. Racial discrimination in sentencing today is more of a subtle process, manifesting itself in connection with other factors and producing racially discriminatory outcomes in certain situations.

For instance, for those wondering what she meant by a “pay jail,” she was talking about California’s pay-to-stay program for minor lawbreakers with major cash. The program “operates like the secret velvet-roped nightclubs of the corrections world,” according to a recent New York Times article. “You have to be in the know to even apply for entry.”

Back in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” Writing at the turn of that century, Du Bois foresaw that the fight for racial equality was far from over and was likely to demand the nation’s attention for yet another hundred years. Despite all the significant gains achieved by the civil rights movement, this problem remains true in the 21st century. Most people would agree that imprisonment is a harsh and dehumanizing experience and must be imposed only as the last recourse. However, here in the US, actions speak louder than our hollow words. America leads the world in figures of prisons and prisoners, and African Americans, though only one eighth of its population, make up nearly half the locked down. According to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, approximately 8 percent of black males between 25 and 29 were incarcerated in 2005, compared to 2.2 percent Latinos and 1.1 percent whites. Black males in general accounted for nearly 550,000 of the 1.4 million federal and state prison inmate population, and black females almost 30,000.

Overall, the 2005 prison labor pool derived from the more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., which included federal, state and territorial prisons; local jails; immigration, customs enforcement and military facilities; Indian Country jails; and juvenile facilities.

America’s malevolent social policy of racially selective mass incarceration is so ubiquitous it is hard to believe there ever was a civil rights movement. Because corporate media has become privatized and commercialized, the press has confined most of its “reporting” to government and celebrity press releases. The Paris Hilton affair is no different; it would seem the corporate media is trying to spin this story into a judge vs sheriff issue instead of reporting sentencing disparities between the haves and have-nots.

Did Hilton suffer from a mental break down? I am pretty sure she did, but it is hard to feel sorry for a rich spoiled brat who has never worked, never has done anything that could justify her being famous. The only mental breakdown this young woman experienced is a culture shock of leaving the partying lifestyle she is used to having for jail. It is also hard to feel sorry for a person who believes her “perfect world” means she is above the law and everyone. Now that her “perfect world” is shredded into pieces, maybe – just maybe – she will think twice before looking down upon people who attend public schools or who are from the ghettos, the barrios or any other ethnic enclaves. And maybe – just maybe – she will think twice before she hurls another racial epithet because they do not live life as a socialite.

What is disturbing about this celebrity-obsessed nation, people care more about her mental state, than the true innocent victims who are suffering in our concentration camps, such as Suzi Hazahza and her 23-year-old sister Mirvat who are subjugated to humiliating full body-cavity searches repeatedly at the hands of prison guards, or the children who are denied their childhood at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center and the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility.

It is ironic that the day Judge Sauer sent Paris Hilton back to jail happened to be the 58th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s 1984. George Orwell got it right: Some are more equal than others.

Inequality was the price of civilization. … Even if it was still necessary for human beings to do different kinds of work, it was no longer necessary for them to live at different social or economic levels. Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were on the point of seizing power, human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted. … The earthly paradise had been discredited at exactly the moment when it became realizable. Every new political theory, by whatever name it called itself, led back to hierarchy and regimentation. And in the general hardening of outlook that set in round about 1930, practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years — imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages, and the deportation of whole populations-not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive.

Equal justice? Not in this country, not when the few have the resources to “get out of jail free”, while the “ethnic other” have to constantly face an angry crowd amongst the right wing media and xenophobic anti-immigration nativists demanding their deportation for similar type of offenses Paris Hilton committed.

Justice might have prevailed now that Paris Hilton has been sent back to prison, but for the rest, equal justice is just an illusion in the Land of the Incarcerated.

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  1. Gravatar Icon sam Jun 10th, 2007 at 8:50 am

    Hilton had credit for five days custody when she was given a medical release. What I find interesting is the quoted Susannah Johnson, who only served one day in jail. What is glaringly omitted is the time she was ordered to serve. Would it be because she was sentenced to a similar sentence as Hilton and was released after only one day? Oh, no, can’t have that! Doesn’t fit into the Hilton is getting special treatment while ignoring that her sentence and denial of early release is harsher than other defendants.

  2. Gravatar Icon Ampersand Jun 10th, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Great post!

    Really interesting article linked about pay-to-stay cells, too. I had no idea that was going on.

  3. Gravatar Icon nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Jun 10th, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Gee, XP. Just because she’s super rich, blonde, and white doesnt mean she shouldn’t have the right to drive blind drunk. What are you…racist?

  4. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Jun 11th, 2007 at 6:10 am

    sam – Welcome. You are right on your assessment regarding Susannah, which is why she is no longer on the updated version of that page. I think they were trying to make a bigger issue of her going to jail, just like the media did when Martha Stewart went to jail. Everything probably would have been OK, but the media made it worse by making it worse. I do find it interesting that the media is reporting she is doing fine over at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, which is a maximum security prison.

  5. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Jun 11th, 2007 at 6:38 am

    Ampersand – Thank you! I thought your post regarding racial discrimination in sentencing was great too which is why I had to link to it and make sure it does go down the memory hole.

    When I saw the “pay jail” statement by Paris, I thought she was on something because it sounded like gibberish until I started looking into it. If this was suppose to be kept a secret, well, Paris has let this little secret out of the bag because other than nobody would be aware of the New York Times article. The LA Times had an article on it too, but somehow it is hard to find. Anyway, if interested here is a link on Santa Ana’s Pay-to-Stay Program

  6. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Jun 11th, 2007 at 6:47 am

    Nez – jejeje

    My bad, what was I thinking. If the daughter of the Mayor of Houston could get off without even doing community service, so should little ole Paris.

  7. Gravatar Icon Mark-Alan Lynch Jun 11th, 2007 at 7:51 am

    While it is nauseating at how much media attention is being devoted to this matter, it is highly noteworthy that Pariah, I mean Paris, had several chances to get her act together. Her claim that she didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to drive begs the question, “Exactly how stupid is this bimbo?” I mean, she DID sign the order she got that specifically stated she was not to drive, and to blame her not understanding the simple terms of that order on her “Handler” only serves to reinforce how stupid she is. How many functionally intelligent people sign forms without understanding it’s contents? No one I know! But Pariah, (Ooops) is “Better” than mere mortals so the rules and laws everyone must adhere to weren’t meant for her. After all, she’s Pariah. How I wish she’d been put into the general population, so she could truly experience firsthand the truth that the rest of society has to live with. And Sheriff Baca should be suspended- or fired. Period.

  8. Gravatar Icon Tom Jun 11th, 2007 at 8:52 am

    She’s not stupid in my opinion. Just drunk out of her mind on privilege.

  9. Gravatar Icon George Thompson Jun 11th, 2007 at 9:25 am

    This is what I think of Paris………………………………………..nuff said.

  10. Gravatar Icon Sean Jun 11th, 2007 at 10:51 am

    It seems a little strange to me that so many people would be so insistant on Paris Hilton being treated like “everyone else” while maintaining that “everyone else” are treated like shit.

  11. Gravatar Icon Magniloquence Jun 11th, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Wow, you totally wrote the post that I’ve been meaning to write (but have been too lazy to actually get around to).

    I already knew about the ‘pay to stay’ jail stuff. That’s been going on for a while now. I guess I kind of thought everyone already knew about it? Heh. I’m usually pretty far behind the curve on these things.

    One of the things I thought was interesting is the other information that’s surfacing about her release/treatment. The reason given on one of the radio stations I listen to (that is usually fairly reliable and has a fairly vested stake in not releasing false information on this particular issue) was that she was on haldol, and that (for whatever reason) they could not administer it to her in the amounts/frequency that she requires. Given that the caller claimed to be from inside the Lynnwood jail system (as a guard or something), and that the area code and other identifying information seemed to check out right… the information likely has at least a grain of truth. It certainly fits in well with the reports we’re now getting, that she was detoxing from cocaine, and thus behaving erratically enough to warrant removal. (Haldol is used, among other things, to treat withdrawal symptoms from ‘heavy’ drugs)

    Given that our prison system isn’t known for the quality of its medical care, or its kind treatment for those suffering from substance-related illnesses, I can certainly see a lawyer making a convincing case that she would not be recieving adequate treatment while at the facility.

    What I find interesting about the case is the way it illustrates the mechanisms of privilege. She isn’t getting special treatment in the way people usually mean it. Her meals weren’t being catered to her cell, she wasn’t having visitors freely… she wasn’t getting anything that wasn’t already available in the prison system one way or another (including the offer to stay at the pay-to-stay prison). What she was given was leniency and access. Where a ‘regular’ person might have to work for privileges (good behavior, befriending guards, exchanges of other sorts), she got them more or less automatically. Privilege here isn’t extra stuff – the judge didn’t break any rules in her sentencing, and even her priors were conducted at least loosely within the bounds of the law – it’s the way the wiggle room played out around her that instantiates the privilege. Lawyers, judges, corrections officers, and other people in power could theoretically, extend these benefits (largely the benefit of the doubt) to anyone they pleased. The system as a whole allows for the discretion of the authorities. Given other circumstances, it could be the default behavior for the system. That it is not gives us a lot of room for the exercise of privilege in this sense.

    Just as interesting, I think, is the way public discourse is proceeding. Yes, a lot of it is dumb (and way less of it needs to be taken up by ‘traditional’ news media/blogs… E! and PerezHilton exist for a reason), but some groups (like the morning show I listen to on Latino 96.3) are using it as a platform for wider discussions of police behavior in general, and community perceptions of fairness. Due to the constraints of the medium, of course, the discussion isn’t as deep as we might like… but it does touch on a lot of important issues (what is’special treatment?’ what might fairness look like? what issues aren’t being addressed the way the system is set up now? if the system was better, would we be able to better enforce it?), and that’s really cool.

  12. Gravatar Icon Rachel S. Jun 11th, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    You did a good job relaying the sequence of events that lead up to her jail sentence (not prison BTW).

    Here is another good post that points out another ironic twist related to the photo of her crying in the car.

  13. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Jun 11th, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    bienvenido todos! Thank you for sharing your thoughts they have added a lot to to this post.

    Mark-Alan Lynch – It is frustrating to see that she was given so many chances to get her act together and yet she still blows it. However, I do have to wonder, this behavior does not magically appear too, some of it is learned. Most likely her defiance towards the law was inherited from her parents. As for Baca, I agree, it is time for Baca to go considering this is not the first time nor will it be his last time either that he has shown celebrity favoritism.

    Tom – You are correct. I think she learned that in her world – more like the world of the rich and famous – that some people are more equal than others. She just learned that not everybody has the same view.

    George – exactly.

    Sean – I can understand why you think this and I value your opinion, however, I am not reading that way. I feel that people are merely point out that there is large disparity between how people are being treated between that haves and have-nots. Given this disparity, people are just asking for some equality.

  14. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Jun 11th, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Magniloquence – Looks like we are on the same wavelength…lol Thank you for sharing that additional information. It does make sense as to why she was taken to Twin Towers. I knew that Haldol was just to clam manic patients because of its powerful sedative effects. I didn’t know it was used to treat withdrawal symptoms. When I worked as a mental heath case I was told that Haldol caused tardive dyskinesia. When I saw a video of it, that shit really freaked me out.

    I know there are some who find it hypocritical that those of us who do complain about the over exposure of Paris Hilton, are no better because a post like this just adds to the whole Paris Hilton drama. But like I told this person who made this claim about me, I am just taking advantage of the situation because normally in any given day, people are not be interested in reading about the disparities in the criminal system. Since the Paris Hilton affair sort exposed it, then why not take the opportunity to talk about.

    Rachel – thanks and thank you for sharing that link. You are correct, that is an interesting twist. You made an excellent point over there. Thank you for pointing it out, I really do appreciate it. I made the correct. Feel free to point an other errors you see, honestly I do mind. I am always make corrections after the fact….lol

  15. Gravatar Icon Tereza Jun 20th, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Great post! The NY Times article on pay-to-stay programs only makes it sound like these programs are all about the economically privileged being able to pay extra and “upgrade.” But inmates in at least one-third of county jails across the U.S. have been getting charged for their stay for some time. Once released, they are billed. In my county that started in 2001 with $60 per day for each inmate. Here is an article about this phenomenon. But maybe most people already know about this.

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