Jail is an awful, dehumanizing place, and I don’t envy Lindsay Lohan for having to spend time there.
In case you’ve fallen behind in your tabloid reading: Lohan, the talented, but increasingly troubled actress, began serving a 90-day sentence today at the women’s jail in Lynwood, California. She got it for failing to show up to court and violating the terms of her probation on earlier misdemeanor drug and driving charges.
In the run-up to her surrender, there was a predictable face-off between those who felt Lohan was getting what she deserved and those who thought she’d be better off in a rehab program.
While I agree that jail isn’t going to cure a serious substance abuse problem, I have to say I’m glad she’s there. And no, not just because this proves a famous actress isn’t above the law and has to pay for what she’s done like everyone else. Initially, I thought that might be why as I’ve often expressed how I feel about rich or celebrated lawbreakers getting special treatment.
But ultimately, I realized it was more because of Lohan’s similarities to others who are doing time behind bars. If you take out the spoiled actress part and all the money, she’s actually a pretty typical inmate. Consider:
- Lohan has drug and alcohol issues; some 26 percent of the jail population is serving time for drug-related crimes.
- Lohan committed her crimes under the influence of drugs/alcohol. Between 60 and 83 percent of the U.S. correctional population has used drugs, nearly twice the estimated drug use for the total U.S. population.
- Lohan was given repeated chances and continually refused to take them. Lohan’s probation came from not one, but two DUIs. In a pattern she shares with many inmates I’ve taught, she missed court appearances and ignored probation requirements, almost sliding into violation by default. This denial of responsibility is fairly common among the incarcertated population.
Lohan, who first charmed me playing twin sisters in “The Parent Trap,” has some incredible gifts. My hope is that she’s able to see this as a wake-up call and use her time away from society — which is expected in the end to be around 23 days — to face her problems. Going to rehab is almost fashionable among the Hollywood set. But sometimes people need a bigger dose of reality to get them to truly want to change. Just as with Roberty Downey Jr., whose drug use ultimately earned him a prison term, this could be a turning point for Lohan.
Readers, what do you think? Have any of you ever been prompted to change your life or deal with major shortcomings because of a jail or prison term? How did you do it?