The party's at Paris' house

Poor Paris.

Jail apparently wasn't good for her health. She was having troubles. Can't say what, but I can say: So what?

When prisoners whose names aren't Hilton get sick in jail, they don't go home. They go to a state or county hospital, where they can be treated, under lockdown. Staph is rampant at that jail, and I haven't seen them letting out the other prisoners to protect them. And believe me, if Paris had a staph infection, they'd tell us.

But Paris is different. Paris had high-priced lawyers and high-priced doctors making high-priced arguments on her behalf. And they worked. What a disgrace.

Paris was in a tiny little cell. She was being kept isolated from other prisoners. That means she wasn't going to be raped, beaten or killed. Already sounds like special treatment to me.

Let's be clear. Jail isn't fun. It isn't the Hilton. It isn't supposed to be. It's supposed to be something people fear and would do almost anything to avoid: like obey the law.

The law, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, isn't really for the good man. The good man doesn't need the threat of jail to behave appropriately. He does it because it's right and he's good. The law draws the line and imposes a penalty for those who would, left to their own devices, cross it with impunity. The law is for the bad man, or woman.

The jails in Los Angeles are full of kids of color who've had none of Paris' advantages, kids who met their lawyers on the way into the arraignment, young people who never got a helping hand from anybody along the way. Why should a spoilt, privileged heiress get better treatment than they?

She didn't just violate the law once. She didn't just violate the law twice. It was the third time that was the charm. I talked to the CHP officer who stopped her one of those times, and he made perfectly clear to her that she had no right to be driving on a license suspended because of her earlier reckless driving.

It wasn't that she didn't understand what was permitted. She didn't care. She figured she'd get away with it because of who she is, and she was right.

Shame, shame, shame.

I feel worse for Scooter Libby than I do for her. At least he contributed something to society in his years in public service. He'll be in prison for years, his life ruined, his reputation destroyed.

Paris will be out partying in the blink of an eye. Paris will be even hotter for having beat the system. Paris has contributed nothing to our culture and nothing to our society. She has had every advantage, and still chooses not to exercise self-restraint. She deserves the stiffest sentence, not the softest one.

The official explanation, of course, is that she hasn't been released, but transferred. How dumb do they think we are? Transferred to her 4,000 square-foot pad. She doesn't have to go out. The party can be at her house. There are, reportedly, no restrictions on visitors or alcohol. What time tonight?

The ideal of equal justice under law is, of course, just that: an ideal. In the criminal justice system, like everywhere else, life isn't fair. The rich are better off than the poor. Having a well-paid private lawyer is almost always better than having an overworked public defender pleading your case. But if there is to be respect for the rule of law, there must be a limit to the differential treatment money can buy, a point at which all the money in the world makes no difference because you're guilty and deserve punishment.

For a moment, I thought Paris Hilton, for all the histrionics, had reached that point. How naive could I have been? What a terrible message to young people everywhere. It's a good day for pretty Paris, but a terrible day for the rule of law.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at .

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