23 Days in Jail with Paris


Paris Hilton may be in solitary confinement, but Judith Ireland imagines what it would be like to be locked in the cell with her.

Call me lucky, or a victim of the system but of the 2,200 girls in the Century Regional Detention Facility in Los Angeles, I got the gig as Paris Hilton’s cellmate.

I was no shoo-in. Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie have both recently put in solid (alleged) law-breaking performances. But as I’m already here for reckless driving, the prison peeps figured Paris and I would be a perfect match.

Paris was sentenced to 45 days behind bars from June 5. It’s bad luck after Paris got pulled up for DUI last year, her publicist didn’t tell her that ‘driving suspension’ meant she couldn’t drive, let alone do 70 mph in a 35 zone without headlights.

With good behaviour, she should be out in 23. I certainly hope she behaves because it’s really hard to avoid someone when you’re trapped together in a concrete box.


So it’s Paris Hilton, a 12-foot-by-8-foot jail cell and me. Sounds like a scenario for a C-grade porno, but before you get too excited, you should know I’m not into that sort of stuff. Not with girls, anyway.

Maybe I’m naïve, but I’m surprised when Paris rocks up in an orange jumpsuit just like mine. I was sure that even though she’s not supposed to get special treatment, she’d have a gold ‘P’ embroidered on one butt cheek or a shrunken puppy in her pocket.

Even without all that, it is totally Paris Hilton and I am faced with the dilemma: how do you meet a celebrity (the ‘iconic blonde’ of the decade) in a jail cell and stay cool? Should I pretend that I don’t know who she is?

By way of introduction, Paris bags the top bunk. I guess she hasn’t noticed that’s where I’ve been sleeping.

It’s too soon to ask for an autograph, isn’t it?


Paris thinks the jumpsuit makes her look fat. High heels would lengthen it, but three-inch spikes are contraband goods in here. I venture that the jumpsuits have a sense of fun about the. I say, ‘They make me feel like a spaceman.’

‘I feel like a human orange!’ Paris wails.

Good thing they’ve banned all the guards from taking photos of Paris then. They’ve even written a handling protocol for her incarceration: ‘The Paris Protocol!’ It sounds almost diplomatic like you could use it to solve the First World War or invade a country.

‘What do you mean œno photos ?!’ PH asks through an authentically furrowed brow.

(NB: Can confirm no botox.)


When the media found out that Paris was getting a cellmate, they said I would be ‘waiting for a touch of Hilton.’

Let’s be clear that I do not want to touch Paris. But I was hoping she’d bring bathrobes, in-house movies and a continental breakfast delivered to the cell each morning at our nominated time between seven and ten.

Sadly, Paris has the same standard-issue kit as me: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, jail-stationery … The most exciting thing is the postage stamps, which I am wearing as fake tattoos. We can buy eye shadow from the jail commissary, but it’s so blue and 1980s-looking (in a bad way) that Paris says we’ll look better without.


PH and I do yoga each morning to maintain our flexibility for the outside world. The cell is too small for sun salutes; mountain standing pose is all we can manage. These are tough times.

PH is also bummed because she got dumped by her record company. She remains optimistic about her music career, however, thanks to her newfound gangsta-cred: ‘Do you think I’ll be able to release a rap album now?’

I am unconvinced. 50 Cent spent at least six months in jail. Martha Stewart did seven.

Thanks to Sharyn Raggett


Paris is frustrated by media comparisons between the Simple Life and her new ‘simple life’: ‘It’s like, such an easy, uncreative headline.’

Yeah, that and the fact that it’s offensive to farmers and poor people to equate their existence with being in jail.



I only get three magazines a week in here. I’m sticking to People, Allure and Vanity Fair to keep tabs on the competition and because they provide a fascinating insight into contemporary popular culture.

I am outraged that there are no jail-specific fashion or boyfriend tips. If there are any editors out there reading this, how hard would it be to include: ’40 Ways to Tell if that Guard Likes You or Is Just Looking in Your Direction Because that’s His Job’?

I’d also like to say that without Paris Hilton, the Hollywood industry is as ugly as a Brazilian three weeks past its use-by date.


Just back from our daily exercise-session, we are totally exhausted from power-walking around the yard to avoid the scary-looking chicks.

This doesn’t stop me from having the epiphany that there’s a total silver lining to this jail-cloud. With its sparse conditions and regimented routine, prison is just like a crash-diet detox camp. Paris reckons it’s even better in a way, because there are no colonics and the taxpayer foots the bill!


Paris is also keeping a diary of her time in the jailhouse.

Sometimes for laughs, we swap diaries (see DAY NINE) but most of the time Paris takes hers seriously. Her slammer-memoir should be a bigger and better read than her original effort, Confessions of an Heiress. There’s industry buzz that if she captures the reality, this could be Sundance material.


Dining on meatloaf and greens alleging to be broccoli, Paris and I talk pets. (Paris’s Chihuahua is called Tinkerbell and has her own Wikipedia entry.)

‘Why do you like tiny animals so much?’ I ask PH.

‘Cos they’re hot and a fish bowl won’t fit in a Birkin bag.’

‘But wouldn’t you look skinnier next to something bigger than you, like a Great Dane or a walrus?’

‘Good point,’ says PH, emptying her meatloaf onto my tray.


Paris hypothesises that if we got two sticks and rubbed them together for long enough we’d establish an internet connection. I am skeptical.

‘Paris, wouldn’t we need some kind of power cord? A plug?’

‘Der “ I’m talking about wireless.’

So I give it a go. We don’t have sticks, just jail pencils. This place makes you really resourceful.


Thirty minutes, a severe case of RSI and three dead HBs later, I give up a failure. PH admits she is surprised that I took her seriously and maintained interest for so long.


I finally worked up the courage to ask PH the Big Questions:

  1. 1. Are you thankful your parents didn’t call you Bangkok?
  2. 2. If you’re wearing a short skirt and getting out of a car with paparazzi in full view, aren’t underpants a must-have accessory?
  3. 3. What’s worse being blamed for the pornification of childhood or the downfall of Britney Spears?

Six years in the limelight have made Paris a slick interviewee: ‘My publicist will provide you with a statement shortly.’


Saturday night and how sad are we? We can’t go out; we can’t even go home.

In keeping with our youthful sense of adventure we consider eating the standard-issue toothpaste. ‘Do you reckon if you kept eating it, your poop would turn white?’ says Paris.

Pretending that it’s just like Tequila, only minty, we trade shots of toothpaste. I make nine shots before giving up in a weird, shooting pain I’ve never experienced before. PH makes 12.

You can’t say the girl doesn’t have commitment, but what the hell are we going to clean our teeth with?


It’s PH’s last night in Century Regional and we are both tired and emotional. We’ve come so far on this journey that we’ll always be close, even if we never talk to each other again. To mark the occasion, Paris suggests we give the shampoo a go. She has half a bottle left and won’t need it after tomorrow. But I’m still feeling strange from the toothpaste.

I’ve been keeping a tally of every time PH says ‘that’s hot’ to determine if her catchphrases are genuine or not. The evidence is inconclusive. So far I’m only up to 14.

(NB: ‘That’s hot’ has not come up in relation to the showers, dinner, the guards, or me.)


We do our morning mountain standing poses and then an un-hot guard arrives to take Paris back to the real world.

Saying goodbye to a celebrity is even harder than hello. I can’t even pretend I don’t know her anymore.

Luckily Paris solves my issue by leaving without saying goodbye. The cell door slams and she is gone with the draught.

No way will jail be as fun sans Paris. But at least I get my top bunk back.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.