"She's using this time to reflect on her life, to see what she can do to make the world better and, hopefully, in my opinion, to change the attitudes that exist about her among many people," attorney Richard A. Hutton told reporters after visiting Hilton.
The 26-year-old hotel heiress checked into the Century Regional Detention Facility in suburban Los Angeles just after 11:30 p.m. Sunday to serve 23 days for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.
Hilton surrendered after a surprise appearance earlier that day at the MTV Movie Awards, where she worked the red carpet in a strapless designer gown. Now in jail-issued clothes, Hilton was being housed in a special unit where she was spending 23 hours a day in a solitary cell, Hutton said.
"If she was an ordinary citizen she would have been placed in the general population. ... She'd be living in a dorm with 30, 40, 50 other women and the time would pass pretty quick," Hutton said. "She is really being punished because of her celebrity."
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail, said Hilton was easy to work with.
"Her demeanor was helpful. She was focused; she was cooperative," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Harvey Levin, managing editor of the celebrity Web site TMZ.com, says Hilton "was still wearing the make-up that she had on the day before. And, contrary to what we had initially heard, they didn't make her take her hair extensions out because they're tightly wound."
Sheriff's deputies had released a mug shot taken last year after Hilton was arrested by Los Angeles police. That photo showed her smiling, in full makeup and with her head tilted to the left, with her blond hair flowing over her bare shoulders.
After checking in, Hilton was given her first meal: cereal, bread and juice.
"It's hell. Go to jail and you'll find out," Alicia Singleton, 23, of Oakland, said Monday as she left jail after serving five weeks for a crime she refused to describe.
Singleton said she and other inmates were asleep when Hilton checked in.
Around 7 a.m., they learned Hilton was there when they watched the TV news. To most of them, it was no big deal. "Oh, Paris, Paris, Paris. If you do the crime, you've got to do the time," Singleton said.
Hilton's jailing drew the attention of late-night comics, said The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman, and even New York's Madame Tussauds Wax Museum featured an image of the fashion goddess — in prison garb.
The "Simple Life" star will be housed in the "special needs" unit of the 13-year-old jail, separate from most of its 2,200 inmates. The unit contains 12 two-person cells reserved for police officers, public officials, celebrities and other high-profile inmates. Hilton's cell has two bunks, a table, a sink, a toilet and a small window. She does not have a cellmate.
Although the accommodations are sparse for Hilton, it's a step up from the general population.
Teresa Jones, 50, of Lancaster, called the jail "so filthy it's worse than skid row." At check-in, jailers hand out a pamphlet on infections, which are common, she said.
"That place is hell; it's awful. Life is easy compared to this," Jones said.
The jail, a two-story concrete building next to train tracks and beneath a bustling freeway, has been an all-female facility since March 2006. It's in an industrial area about 12 miles southeast of downtown.
When Hilton was sentenced May 4, the judge ruled she would not be allowed any work release, furloughs or use of an alternative jail or electronic monitoring in lieu of jail.
Despite believing she received an unfair punishment, Hilton was taking responsibility by serving her time, her attorney said.
"She knows it's wrong, but her attitude is, 'I'm going to come in here, I'm going to do my time, I'm going to get it over with and I'm going to show the world who I really am,' " Hutton said.
Hilton showed up at the MTV Movie Awards wearing a black strapless dress and jewels in her long blond hair. The hotel heiress stopped briefly to pose for photos and speak to reporters.
"I am trying to be strong right now," Paris said of her jail time. "I'm really scared, but I'm ready to face my sentence."
Though she spent her last night of freedom with her Hollywood cool crowd, she got little sympathy from her peers at the award ceremony.
"You shouldn't drive while drunk that's the bottom line. Hire a driver. You make enough money; hire a driver," actress Amanda Bynes said.
Officers arrested Hilton in Hollywood on Sept. 7. In January, she pleaded no contest to the reckless-driving charge and was sentenced to 36 months of probation, alcohol education and $1,500 in fines.
She was pulled over by California Highway Patrol on Jan. 15. Officers informed Hilton she was driving on a suspended license and she signed a document acknowledging she was not to drive. She then was pulled over by sheriff's deputies on Feb. 27, at which time she was charged with violating probation.