LOS ANGELES – Paris Hilton will end up serving more time behind bars than the vast majority of inmates sent to Los Angeles County jail for similar offenses, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of jail records.
Whether Hilton received special treatment by the Sheriff’s Department has become the subject of much debate since Sheriff Lee Baca last week allowed the hotel heiress to go home after four days in jail, despite a promise that she would serve 23 days of a 45-day sentence.
The Times analyzed 2 million jail releases and found 1,500 cases since July 2002 that – like Hilton’s – involve defendants arrested for drunk driving and later sentenced to jail after a probation violation or driving without a license.
Had Hilton left jail after four days, her stint behind bars would have been similar to those served by 60 percent of those inmates. But after a judge sent her back to jail Friday, Hilton’s attorney announced she would serve the full 23 days in jail. That means Hilton will end up serving more time than 80 percent of others in a similar situation.
The findings come as some community activists accuse Baca of showing favoritism to Hilton and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors launched an investigation into whether she received special treatment because of her wealth and fame.
The data also underscore the profound effect of the Sheriff’s Department’s early release program, which sets inmates free before their sentences are up to prevent chronic overcrowding.
Before the early release program began in 2002, inmates with cases similar to Hilton’s were sentenced to terms amounting to an average of 23 days, the same as Hilton is expected to serve. They actually served 21 days. After the program began, the average term was 14 days, with inmates actually serving an average of four days.
Because of the high media interest, Hilton was one of few inmates whose premature release received publicity – and the judge who originally sentenced her took notice. She is believed to be the first inmate in years who actually was sent back to jail to serve more of her term.