Actress Lindsay Lohan is going to jail today in Los Angeles, prompting the Detroit Free Press to raise the question about whether “things like reality TV and other things have almost glorified going to jail,” as Arthur Robin, head of psychology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, put it. “Yes, it’s still something young people view very negatively, but probably not as negatively as 50 years ago.
The accelerated news media obsession with locked-up celebrities, politicians and sports stars may be desensitizing young people to jail, experts say. Rather than a stiff penalty, jail has become a simple inconvenience. Published reports suggest Lohan’s first post-jail interview will be worth more than $500,000. In the weird world of celebrity justice, where going to jail doesn’t necessarily kill careers. Often, it bolsters them. Experts say that is a problem — especially for young and impressionable fans. “The impact is tremendous.  There’s certainly not the stigma of going to jail or prison that there was 50 years ago,” said Carl Taylor, a Michigan State University sociologist who studies urban youths. “Kids are not scared of going to prison. They sure as hell are not scared of going to jail.”