Does Prison Suck Less If You're a Celebrity?

Lindsay Lohan and Alexis Neiers and other celebs have an easier time of it in lockup, it's true

By Leslie Gornstein Jul 27, 2010 1:42 AMTags
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Are they really going to release Lindsay Lohan in just 13 to 15 days?!!! I guess it pays to be famous before heading to jail?
—Amanda, via Facebook

Anyone who says that jailed celebrities—your Lindsay Lohan, your Alexis Neiers—are treated just like everyone else in lockdown is lying. Unless you think that skipping strip searches and lounging about in your own private cell is somehow normal.

And it is not, I tell you what:

Onward, with help from some real live lawyers who have repped real live celebrities, such as former Britney Spears attorney Steven Knowles.

"I can say unequivocally that celebrities are treated with kid gloves by comparison to their day to day counterparts" in jail, he tells me. "There is great deference given to them by the officers, from the moment of custody to the booking stage to getting cells of their own."

So let's start with that intake stage.

Per Knowles, "traditional booking includes a strip search and typically body cavity search, but none of that happens with celebrities."

Neiers, however, was subjected to a strip search when admitted to the Lynwood ladies lockup last month, as she explained to E! News.

Once they are in jail, celebrities usually get an entire cell to themselves, which is unusual given the overcrowded nature of California jails, defense attorney Peter Berlin tells me. That isolation, plus a star's fame—combine to make it much easier to get medical attention while in prison, he adds.

"It's very tough for the average Joe to get attention in jail, whether it be for medical reasons, for necessities, or violence issues," Berlin says.

In other words, Paris Hilton's jail freakout would likely merit her immediate medical attention; your own ordinary-person jail freakout, however, would not.

But what about length of stay?

Opinions differ on that one, with some attorneys insisting that, say, Hilton's infamous extended sentence was longer than what a civilian would get, while others tell me that Hilton's sentence was actually a bit on the short side.

California jailbirds on average do about 10 percent—or thereabouts—of their sentences because of overcrowding, attorneys tell me. So if Lohan does indeed serve only a few weeks out of a 90-day sentence, don't be surprised.

And if she serves even less, that wouldn't be a shocker, either. When Nicole Richie was sentenced to 96 hours in connection with a DUI, she did even less than 10 percent of that sentence; she was out in 82 minutes.

For more examples of special celebrity treatment in jail, be sure to check out my shiny and colorful A-List Playbook: How to Survive Any Crisis While Remaining Wealthy, Famous, and Most Importantly, Skinny.