Sympathy a hard sell for jail mates

Times Staff Writer

If a distraught Paris Hilton expects sympathy from other women serving time at the Los Angeles County Jail in Lynwood, she could be waiting longer than the term of her sentence.

“I find it unfair that she got out so quickly,” Rhonda Thompson said as she walked quickly from the stark facility Friday morning. “I didn’t want to be here either. It was a nightmare.”

The 36-year-old Downey resident was at the Century Regional Detention Facility to pick up her belongings after spending four days in jail for driving with a suspended license.

Like Hilton, Thompson didn’t want to be behind bars. And although Hilton’s medical condition was described as largely psychological, Thompson said she has painful fibroid tumors on her uterus.

“If she had a medical problem, I’d like to see her top mine,” Thompson said as she and her husband left the jail.


Minutes later, Robbie Davenport, 42, of Hollywood also left the jail, after spending 45 days in custody on a 90-day sentence for violating probation by driving.

Unlike Thompson, Davenport said she had two prior arrests -- both for driving under the influence.

But she was every bit as angry about how the system had kept her locked up for weeks while Hilton was released after only three days.

“What’s so special about her?” Davenport asked. “Do I have to stay here for 45 days just because I don’t have money to pull strings?”

Thompson, Davenport and other women at the jail Friday said they knew Hilton received special treatment.

Hilton was kept in protective custody, far from the other female prisoners, the women said.

Some said that deputies even put other inmates on lockdown Thursday while Hilton walked through the jail.

The entire scene was a bit much for Valerie Jacquez, who left the jail after serving eight months for possession of a heroin syringe. Jacquez, 48, has been in jail six times and said it never gets any easier.

During her most recent stay, she said, she took medicine for seizures and multiple pills for high blood pressure.

If Hilton got such easy treatment, said Jacquez’s longtime friend Ralph -- a veteran state corrections officer who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals -- then Jacquez’s medical condition should have permitted her an early release.

“I am not a fan of Paris Hilton, and I don’t think it’s fair that she got such a big sentence,” the burly corrections officer said. “But if they can go easy on her, why not Valerie too?”

Throughout the morning and afternoon, as prisoners exited carrying their belongings in small freezer bags or large plastic ones, they and their family members seemed bothered, but hardly surprised, at how Hilton’s treatment was different from theirs.

“She should have served her whole time,” said Shannon, 33, from Santa Clarita, who declined to give her last name.

Though she is bipolar and has epilepsy, Shannon said, she spent four weeks in jail for her third drug conviction.

Her uncle shook his head about the accommodations made for Hilton.

“When people like that come in, the people inside know that it just shows everyone how there are two separate systems in the law,” Robert Anthony said.

“There is one for the upper class and one for the [rest]. If you have money, you can pretty much get off for anything.”

Outside, half a dozen African American community leaders said the incident involving Hilton underscored how medical treatment must be improved in the county’s jail system.

“We have dozens of women here who have serious medical issues, but they don’t have money or fame or connections,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.

“If you are going to provide something for Paris Hilton, you must provide it for others too,” he said.