The eternally troubled Lindsay Lohan began her high-profile jail stint on Tuesday — and, though she's expected to serve just two weeks of the 90-day sentence she received for violating her 2007 probation, "she won't get off lightly," says Piper Kerman in The Daily Beast. Kerman knows life inside firsthand; she spent nearly 12 months in a federal prison in Connecticut after being charged with a 10-year-old drug trafficking crime (as documented in her memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison). "The worst part of jail time is the utter boredom," she writes. "There is precious little opportunity to fill the time with any constructive activity; occasional visits to the library, severely limited 'rec time' in a gym or a yard, religious observance, and the constant blare of televisions are about the only options." Kerman uses Lohan's jail time as a jumping off point to discuss the futility of incarceration and the need for judicial reform. Here's an excerpt:
Does all this misery add up to better public safety? While some people watch Lohan’s predicament with glee, it’s sobering to think that California spends an average of more than $45,000 per prisoner per year, a price the state government can ill afford. The American correctional system is unquestionably punitive, but it certainly doesn’t rehabilitate; a staggering number of prisoners return to jail or prison despite its horrors. There is little clear path visible to a different life for most of the millions of Americans behind bars, and there are huge barriers in employment, housing, health, and family reunification that are known to consistently trip people up in their efforts to go straight.
Given that a big swath of the prison and jail population is nonviolent offenders, especially among female prisoners, it seems like there are smarter alternatives to a safe society. I spent time with just a handful of the thousands of women who are released from prisons and jails every year in this country. If Lohan leaves her incarceration with something productive drawn from the experience, she will be among the few nonviolent offenders for whom jail time was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.