Paris Hilton and Martha Stewart

Contrast, if you will, Paris Hilton going into hysterics upon being sent back to jail and Martha Stewart’s Christmas 2004 letter from prison.

So many of the women here in Alderson will never have the joy and wellbeing that you and I experience. Many of them have been here for years — devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family.

I beseech you all to think about these women — to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking. They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help.

It struck me at the time, and still does, that Stewart’s letter was devoid of self-pity and instead concerned with women inmates who have nothing to go back to and no skills once they are released.

Paris Hilton went to jail for violating probation. Most judges take a dim view of such shenanigans and would have done the same. That Hilton made things worse by acting like a spoiled child is her own idiotic fault.

Martha Stewart did her time and didn’t whine about it. Paris Hilton obviously has serious mental problems and probably a monkey or two on her back. Cold turkey got me on the run.

Sue has been to the Lynwood jail, where Hilton is being held, to visit people. It’s a nasty vicious place where staph infections run rampant and help is minimal. Yet California and Los Angeles just keep building more of these punishment factories. Because punishment, not rehabilitation, is what they are about. Oh, and the billions of dollars that is spent building and maintaining them, that’s a big part of it too. Politicians, contractors, and prison guard unions make sure the grease keeps coming.

Most of the people in jails and prisons are there because of alcohol and drugs. Building prisons to treat alcoholism and drug addiction is like building graveyards to treat cancer. You want to cut the crime rate? Get people clean and sober. It’s that simple.

How many mentally unbalanced women like Paris Hilton are in the prison system because of alcohol and drugs? But they aren’t famous, so you never hear about them. No one hears their screams.

Maybe Hilton’s plight will help focus attention on just how sick our prison system is.