Paris Hilton begins jail term a day early

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From the barrage of camera flashes on the red carpet of a Hollywood awards show to the four walls of a jail cell -- what a difference a day makes when you’re Paris Hilton.

The 26-year-old heiress, a symbol of privilege and America’s celebrity culture, was booked into a Los Angeles County jail early on Monday, a day ahead of her court-ordered deadline, to begin serving a three-week sentence for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

She surrendered to authorities in downtown Los Angeles late Sunday night, hours after making a surprise appearance at the MTV Movie Awards, and was transferred to the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, 15 miles north of Los Angeles, the county sheriff’s department said.

Once there, she was fingerprinted, photographed and “medically screened,” then issued an ID wristband, orange-colored jail clothing and issued toiletries, sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said in a statement.

Hecht said the booking process for Hilton, whose great-grandfather, Conrad, started the global Hilton Hotel empire, was completed by about 1 a.m. PDT (4 a.m. EDT) on Monday.

Her booking photo showed her dressed in a white V-neck top, wearing eye makeup and lip gloss with a slight smile, her blond hair swept to one side over her right shoulder.

Sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore described her as “cooperative,” “calm” and “focused” during booking.

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“This is an important point in my life, and I need to take responsibility for my actions,” Hilton said in a statement issued by her lawyer. “Although I am scared, I am ready to begin my jail sentence.”

Hecht said Hilton will be kept alone in her cell, an enclosure 8 feet wide, 12 feet deep and 8 feet high, equipped with two bunks, a sink, a small table, a slit window and a metal toilet.

Whitmore has said Hilton would be treated like any other prisoner at the jail, which houses roughly 2,200 women. But she has been segregated from the general population in a “special-needs” unit designed for high-profile inmates such as celebrities, former police officers and public officials.

The star of reality TV’s “The Simple Life” will be confined to quarters 23 hours a day, with an hour each day outside her cell to stretch her legs, take a shower, use the telephone or watch television in a jailhouse day room.

It’s a far cry from Hilton’s last day of freedom, during which she attended the MTV Movie Awards in a black, strapless gown, posing on a red carpet before throngs of photographers.

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Hilton was arrested for drunken driving in September, and in January she pleaded no contest -- the equivalent of a guilty plea -- to a reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving. She was sentenced to three years’ probation and had her license suspended.

But the heiress was caught driving in February. A traffic court judge ruled on May 4 that Hilton’s latest offense was a probation violation and sentenced her to 45 days in jail.

Sheriff’s officials said they expected her to complete her term in 23 days under state guidelines that give most inmates a day’s credit against their sentence for each day they serve with good behavior.