"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.