Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To Lindsay Lohan: Overcrowding Isn't Just for Ordinary Inmates!

Photo by David McNew, AP
Lindsay Lohan is going to jail.  Us Weekly reports that the actress, singer, and Hollywood bad girl was sentenced to 90 days in the Los Angeles County Jail yesterday for driving under the influence and reckless driving. 

Or was she?

According to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Lohan probably won't serve more than 25% of her sentence -- that's 22 days.  Why will Lohan luck out?  Jail overcrowding.  The LA lock-up is one of the most notoriously overcrowded systems in the country, which turns the jail's front door into something more like a revolving door.  To keep the system from imploding, nonviolent offenders like Lohan serve less time.  Lindsay should consider changing her name to Lucky Lohan.  Overcrowding:  it's not just for ordinary inmates!

People are always complaining about how the criminal justice system goes easy on celebrities, but in this instance, you really can't blame the judge.  In fact, according to USA Today, the judge was sending a disrespectful Lohan a very tough message.  Lohan's father pleaded with the court to give her access to treatment for a prescription drug addiction, not jail time.  Lohan will get rehab, but she'll do the time, too.

Rolling Stone contributing editor David Wild has offered Lohan some suggestions for how to rock n' roll her way through those 22 days.

To me, this (sad) story serves as just one more reminder of how arbitrary the justice system can be -- not because the people running it are doing a poor job, but because the system has relied too much on prisons and jails.  Let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that 90 days in jail is a fair sentence for Lohan.  She isn't getting a break from the court; any break she gets in the actual amount of time served is the result of an over-reliance on jails in the first place.  Creating overcrowded jails and prisons can mean the wrong people serve too much time, and the right people don't serve enough.

That's what I call a lose-lose situation.

-- Stowe