No Comment: Poor Poor Paris

Paris Hiltonreleased after only 4 days (including days she came early) for medical reasons. Her attorney claims she served the same amount as “any plain Jane” in the same circumstances.

B/c I’ve refused to discuss this ridiculousness, perhaps Amnesty International USA Fact Sheet might lead the rest of the world to claim otherwise:

The Issue: Medical Neglect of Women in US Prisons

Women are denied essential medical resources and treatments, especially
during times of pregnancy and/or chronic and degenerative diseases.

  • Failure to refer seriously ill inmates for treatment and delays
    in treatment

    Women inmates suffering from treatable diseases such as asthma, diabetes,
    sickle cell anemia, cancer, late-term miscarriages, and seizures have little
    or no access to medical attention, sometimes resulting in death or permanent
    injury. Instances of failure to deliver life-saving drugs for inmates with
    HIV/AIDS has also been noted.
  • Lack of qualified personnel and resources and use of non-medical

    There is too few staff to meet physical and mental health needs. This often
    results in long delays in obtaining medical attention; disrupted and poor
    quality treatment causing physical deterioration of prisoners with chronic
    and degenerative diseases, like cancer; overmedication of prisoners with psychotropic
    drugs; and lack of mental health treatment. The use of non-medical staff to
    screen requests for treatment is also common.
  • Charges for medical attention
    In violation of international standards, many prisons/jails charge inmates
    for medical attention, on the grounds that charging for health care services
    deters prisoners from seeking medical attention for minor matters or because
    they want to avoid work. In some supermaximum prisons, where prisoners cannot
    work at all, the US Justice Department has expressed concern that charging
    prisoners impedes their access to health care.
  • Inadequate Reproductive Health Care
    In 1994, the National Institute of Corrections stated that provision of gynecological
    services for women in prison is inadequate. Only half of the state prison
    systems surveyed offer female-specific services such as mammograms and Pap
    smears, and often entail a long wait to be seen.
  • Shackling During Pregnancy
    Shackling of all prisoners, including pregnant prisoners, is policy in federal
    prisons and the US Marshall Service and exists in almost all state prisons.
    Only two states have legislation regulating the use of restraints (belly chain,
    leg irons and handcuffs) Shackling during labor may cause complications during
    delivery such as hemorrhage or decreased fetal heart rate. If a caesarian
    section is needed, a delay of even 5 minutes may result in permanent brain
    damage to the baby.
  • Lack of treatment for substance abuse
    The gap between services available and treatment needs continues to grow.
    The number of prisoners with histories of drug abuse is growing, but the proportion
    of prisoners receiving treatment declined from 40% in 1991 to 18% in 1997.
  • Lack of Adequate or Appropriate Mental Health Services
    48-88% of women inmates experienced sexual or physical abuse before coming
    to prison (as many as 90% in New York and Ohio prisons), and suffer post-traumatic
    stress disorder. Very few prison systems provide counseling. Women attempting
    to access mental health services are routinely given medication without opportunity
    to undergo psychotherapeutic treatment.

Along with the Amnesty list, which focuses on cis gendered women, recent research documents how transwomen continue to be denied treatment as well. While the court recognizes the medical model surrounding transgendered identity, it does so in a way that both stigmatizes transwomen and refuses to interfere with the individual decisions of prison medical personnel. Meaning that transwomen are often denied access to their hormone treatments even when they have a diagnosis of gender dysmorphia. Post-op patients who transitioned in other countries not requiring this diagnosis have even less ground to stand on in U.S. courts and may be denied both hormone treatments (when used), medical interventions for botched “surgeries” like Brazilian silicon injections or other low cost options that may be simply transitory or physically harmful. This is particularly disconcerting since a 2005 study found that transwomen were particularly vulnerable to incarceration and HIV (which the Amnesty statistics already show is poorly treated in women’s prisons for cisgendered women and would thus be all the more so for transgendered ones). And a 1997 study of 393 transwomen living in San Francisco found that 65% had been incarcerated at some point in their lives for any number of reasons (some of which were simply walking while trans).

The following flow chart comes from Lori Kohler’s 2005 study of incarcerated transwomen. The larger presentation maps how lack of medical care in the outside world can lead to incarceration but also how that same lack can lead to both psychologically and physically dangerous situations in prison.


Kohler also found that “prisoners who withdraw rapidly from hormone therapy are at risk for psychiatric symptoms.” Unlike Paris Hilton, such symptoms do not raise the alarm for prison guards nor result in early release. In fact, such symptoms play into transphobic judicial decisions (like the comments made by the maggert vs. hanks case that upheld refusing hormone treatment on the basis of prison physician’s opinion) and abusive treatment in prisons by guards and inmates. The Torry South case decision that enforces the right to hormone treatments has done little to change the prevailing attitudes or amendment violating denial of treatment.

Kohler also found that some prisons were using hormone treatments, or knock off treatments, as income or barter.  In other words, the lack of access to hormones through prison physicians has led to a black market hormone trade within prisons in which favors are exchanged for drugs administered by non-medical personnel and potentially without proper cross-checks (anything could be in the syringe). This finding also implies another potential problem in which prison officials could easily use the treatments as a privilege rather than as necessary medical treatment, refusing treatment to prisoners who “misbehave.” Thus medical treatment becomes a tool by which transwomen are intentionally stigmatized and manipulated but not granted early release. No women but Hilton have received this “plain Jane” honor.

Too bad Tookie’s last name wasn’t Hilton.


7 thoughts on “No Comment: Poor Poor Paris

  1. Prof, while I am shedding no tears for Paris Hilton, I definitely shed no tears for Tookie, despite his having found redemption in the end. Paris is just plain flaky; Tookie, well…he was a bad person.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree.Before I explain why, let me first clarify for readers who may not care/have read about Paris Hilton’s case or know who Tookie was, that the point of my post was to point toward disparate treatment under the law based on race and class and gender. It was also meant to highlight violations of female prisoners healthcare rights, rights that may or may not have led to fatalities of women and/or fetuses while Paris’ stress related rash was said to be a good enough reason to release her. (All though they are claiming it is “unspecified medical reasons” the original statement said it was a rash.) Paris would like us all to believe she is both flaky and being unduly prosecuted. And that her fame is a liability akin to that of transwomen in male prisons. The facts: Paris Hilton drove drunk. Her license was suspended. She was stopped two additional times, at least once for DUI, both times she was driving with a suspended license. She missed her court date to adjudicate these issues and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She wrote the governor for a pardon and claimed she was being targeted because of her “fame.” Her sentence was cut in half. Then she checked in to prison early, leaving for house arrest exactly one day after her original sentence was supposed to take place amidst her lawyer claiming overcrowding often resulted in people being released after serving 10% of their sentences; 10% being the exact amount of time she served on the original sentence of 45 days, if you count the early check in, before claiming she had a rash/illness and had to go home.Though Paris killed no one while DUI, she could have, people do it every day. Her sentence is not excessive as some are claiming, as an advocate for women, I have seen them sentenced to much worse for similar, non-consecutive, crimes; Paris’ crimes were consecutive and intentional. She took actions that showed repeatedly that she thought she was above the law – driving without a license when she could easily have had a driver or a friend drive, and not showing up for court. Her release smacks of a backroom deal; implied by the judge himself who reminded everyone involved the law says he is the only one who can amend her sentencing.Tookie committed several crimes intentionally and with flagerant disregard for the law. His crimes were violent, his legacy damaging to our community in innumerable ways.While serving in prison, he became a changed man. He worked in the prison ministry, helped prisoners learn non-violent resolution skills, de-escalated gang violence and gang wars in the prison through the power of his former gang status, and wrote several children’s books about choosing peace in the face of overwhelming poverty and subsequent bad influences and in the face of every day conflict. He was executed after serving an extensive prison sentence despite appeals, statements by former victims saying they believed he was reformed, and a nation wide campaign.Their crimes are not comparable. Neither is/was their treatment. More importantly perhaps is that her treatment is not equal to any of the women whose health care disparities are documented in the quoted Amnesty International report regardless of whether their crimes were intentional or the result of DSV related crimes.Our prison system was supposed to be about reforming prisoners. If that was its goal then how do the dual tales of Tookie and Paris illustrate how far we have [not] come on achieving this goal?

  3. Hi, Prof.I understand what it is your post is communicating, and I understand the reasons why Paris Hilton was sentenced to time in prison. The term, “flaky” was not meant to discount either of those things. I appreciated your highlighting the issue re: female inmates via your statistics.

  4. hey miss profe, I hope I didn’t offend by making some clarifying statements before responding. I know you get it. I just did not want to encourage a whole blog discussion about Paris Hilton and her behavior or a free Paris discussion, as a result of your really clear objection to what seemed like an oversimplification of Tookie’s role in criminal activity on my part. You were calling me out for not mentioning Tookie was a criminal who killed people, I was afraid both my post and your comment however were going to be seen as an invitation to discuss Paris in general. Not really my thing.Thanks for interjecting. It is always welcome. 🙂

  5. anonI did here that the judge sent her back. I am glad that the law is being applied fairly for once.Now if only we could get the law to apply fairly to all inmates including those being shipped out of San Jose in the middle of the night to countries that allow torture so we can get around our human rights “rhetoric.”I want a world where we are all equal under the law. Where that law follows principles like the Geneva Convention and the Human Rights Declaration.The celebrity news of the past few days has surely distracted us from these larger issues just as they could have shed light on them.Like the timing and attention spent on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, I think it safe to say that Paris and Washington are meant to distract us from: the war, the presidential debates, the G8 summit, etc. Of course those of us who know that, already know that.

  6. Hi, Prof.I appreciate your original comment and your follow-up. And, it’s all good; I was never offended.I also appreciate your preservation of your blog’s integrity, something which some bloggers are hesitant/unwilling to do. I know that you and I can both attest to the way a situation can develop on a blog which is akin to a runaway train where comments are concerned. The original intent of the blogger in his/her post is either forgotten or not understiood from the get, and/or responders highjack the post.peace.

  7. Thanks for reminding us all what life is REALLY like inside prison walls. Rather than call for Paris to do her time too, though, I’d push for everybody to get out. Putting people in cages isn’t right. Ever.

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