we’re all more than the story the world tells of us.

we were just talking about Paris Hilton. isn’t everybody?

i might get stoned for this, but i’m really not sure Paris should be in prison. of course I believe she should get the punishment that everyone else gets when they commit this crime – absolutely – but i’m not sure i think that anyone who has committed her crime should be in prison. We have to get better at finding punishment for crimes like this that actually restore and rehabilitate people. Or we have to change our prisons so that they do just that. Which, of course, the US system might do better than us in Australia.

i know Paris says that prison has already made her a better person, and i don’t have the insight or the right to judge that. i do know that for people to emerge ‘better’ from the prison system here, they need to be amazingly resilient, have great courage and imagination. it’s not an easy thing to do. Prison is the ultimate institution – it’s intentionally designed to crush any individuality, any imagination, any self-responsibility and any independent thought. to come out of it better is an incredible feat. all power to you, Paris. i hope you do.

i’m the first to dump on Paris, and society’s elevation of people who are celebrities just for being celebrities … what i read of her makes me feel pretty nauseous. but i keep thinking of something i’ve said over and over as i’ve reflected on the worship we’ve been doing in prison over the last year: we are all more than the story that has brought us to this place, and we are all more than the story that the world tells of us. Even Paris.


  1. Judy Redman

    I spent 5 weeks in Texas earlier this year and I stayed with a couple who have been involved in visiting prisons for the Catholic church for quite a number of years. The US prison system is significantly less good than ours at rehabilitation. They have a penal system, we have a correctional system – two quite different philosophies. Australian prisons might not be doing a good job at rehab, but at least they try. US prisons are there to punish people. Probably this varies from state to state there, but the conditions in Australian prisons are palatial compared to most US ones [For those who haven’t been inside an Aussie prison – this means the US ones really suck, not that ours are particularly nice] and they use imprisonment for far more minor crimes in most of the US than we do. Mind you, it’s easier to be put into jail in NSW than it is in Victoria, too.

    So I agree on both counts. I don’t think that imprisonment is necessarily the best way to deal with many of the crimes for which it is used, but I also don’t think that the fact that you’re famous should mean that the rules don’t apply to you, either.

  2. I believe the US has the higest percentage of its population incarcerated than any other industrialized country with many of those jailed for drug offenses. Study after study has shown that a high percentage of those jailed on drug and alcohol charges end up becoming hardened criminals while in prison and are thus likely to commit hhenious crimes when they are released.

    Here in the US, there appears to be increasingly high rates of addiction with even children being given Prozac. This pharmacoological approach to our problems masks the spiritual emptiness that lies behind the drugs. I also remember from my training as a social worker that the money invested in drug prevention programs pays off in keeping kids sober and out of jail. But those tend to be the first programs cut when there’s a budget crunch so the money can be spent on items such as additional prisons.

    The number of people who die at the hands of a drunk driver stagger the mind – I have a friend who is an advanced alcoholic and nothing scares me more than when I know she’s taking her kids out for a drive and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it – so far, she’s only wrecked the car but she just paid the damages out of pocket so there’s no police record. I’ve worked with enough addicts to know you can’t force them into recvoery but what should be done to prevent them from hurting others until when and if they hit rock bottom and decide to seek help? I have no answers and as noted, the stats prove that what we have in the US isn’t working.

    Maybe the Australian news system is less celebrity driven but I wish the journalists would turn their lenses away from trying to snap photos of drunken starlets to exploring what’s behind this rise of celebrity arrests for driving under the influence. What is happening in our culture when even people who seem to have everything are turning to drugs and alcohol?

  3. “What is happening in our culture when even people who seem to have everything are turning to drugs and alcohol?”- that’s an interesting question Becky. My question is in the “seeming to have everything” – What is everything? And how can you tell if someone has ‘everything’?
    I think that those who don’t turn to D&A are those who have peace in their hearts and love in their lives, probably. And hope!
    And we would all agree, I hope, that money and fame certainly don’t buy these…
    there are SO many celebrities in trouble for D&A. It is rife. But that’s because they are human too.

    Anyhowwww I wasn’t planning on entering into all this except to say Cheryl, your grace knows no bounds. I slyly whisper that I too have had my curiosity raised at the Paris situation – and I’m also interested in how I, and others, have responded to it. The way it raises issues of judgment and ‘justice’ from people is fascinating- many (including myself) were really irked that she was freed (seeming to be ‘celebrity justice’) and then a little sad for her going back in: especially when I realised that I don’t really believe prison is the place for this either. What a cycle! What a bizarre culture, too, that I even know anything about this situation to feel the ability/right to comment. Hmm.

    It would be great to think we could work towards ‘correctional’ systems that actually deal with the issues. It would be equally great if the fact that people were dying in floods around here was the most sought news story rather than Paris.

    Cheryl, as always, I love your perspective. thanks 🙂

  4. steve collins

    i generally feel sorry for paris hilton. she was dumped into the public eye in a most humiliating fashion, and has struggled as best she knows how with the consequences ever since. celebrity isn’t an easy environment in which to make your way, still less to recover dignity.

  5. Cheryl

    i wonder if a bit of us wanted paris to go to prison for being paris…

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