Celebrity Justice

August 19th, 2010 by Andrea Bennett

Celebrities aren’t like you and me, but should prisons treat them like they are?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Stories of famous people going to jail are some of America’s favorites, and it’s no surprise. Serving jail time means they really are just like us—or worse.

Likewise, nothing sparks quite as much outrage as when a celebrity doesn’t get disciplined as America thinks they should. Take Lindsay Lohan, the celebrity jailbird du jour, recently released from Lynwood Correctional Facility after serving just shy of two weeks of her 90-day sentence, for good behavior and to relieve prison overcrowding.

According to one report, it’s a long-standing policy of the LA County jail system to release nonviolent misdemeanor offenders early due to severe overcrowding. In fact, those incarcerated in California serve about 10 percent of their sentences on average because of overcrowding.

But that hasn’t stopped vocal celeb-watchers from hypothesizing that it’s fame—not overcrowding— that gets celebrities released early. Even while she served her time, one story notes, she wasn’t treated like other people in the facility. “She's not treated like if it was anyone else going to jail," Maria Medina, a relative of an inmate at Lohan's jail told People magazine. "Like, if they even want to bring her new clothes or bring her anything, they put the whole facility on lockdown. It happens all the time."

According to another report, penal institution staff are likely happy to get rid of high-profile prisoners sooner rather than later. OJ Simpson’s stay at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail reportedly cost more than $230,000 for the first four months alone, since the ex-NFL star’s lawyers demanded items like sleeping pills and a special pillow, plus hours more time to walk outside his cell than other inmates.

Famous people might not be like you and me, but should prisons treat them like they are?