The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Another stays trapped

Mumbai, April 16: While serving a five-month sentence for lying to federal investigators in an inside trading inquiry, celebrity Hollywood interior designer Martha Stewart had called for sentencing reform ' especially for non-violent and drug offenders.

In a message on her website,, Stewart spoke of the women she was imprisoned with and urged readers to help them by working for sentence reductions.

“They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate, no way to be prepared for life ‘out there’ where each person will ultimately find herself, many with no skills and no preparation for living.”

An echo of Salman Khan as he walked out of jail on April 13'

After three days in a Jodhpur jail, the Bollywood heartthrob told a TV channel: “It’s difficult to see people (serving terms) when they have been in jail for (their) past mistakes. Mistakes they made as 19- or 20- or 21-year-olds. Many of them are old or have turned into (a) bag of bones. It really shakes you up.”

Salman also said he planned to fix the jail toilets and send TV sets to the prisoners.

Do all jailed celebrities undergo a syndrome of sympathy' Does it change them as people' “Not at all,” says Varkha Chulani, clinical psychologist at Lilavati Hospital. “A prisoner’s response to imprisonment varies from individual to individual.”

To buttress her point, Chulani cites Salman’s habitual brushes with the law. “It certainly isn’t as if he is being targeted as is being made out. I don’t know him, but as a psychologist I find his actions similar to that of a highly disturbed individual.”

“And the most interesting thing,” says psychiatrist Bharat Shah, “is that he is constantly trying to heap the blame for his actions at someone else’s doorstep.”

Both say despite all kinds of admonitions and penalties, individuals of this type often repeat their mistakes, but don’t see them as such.

“It’s not wise to expect reform from such people, as they are perpetually emotionally unstable. They don’t cross the line deliberately; they do it because they can’t help it. It gives them an adrenaline rush and at that point they are not thinking of the consequences. They need help,” says Shah.

Even after an FIR was lodged against him by Bishnois for killing an endangered deer in September 1998, Salman allegedly killed two more rare deer a few days later.

Shah points to the actor’s recent statements after being released from jail. “They told me my mother was ill, but (not) the extent of her illness. If I had known, I would have broken down and broken out of jail,” Salman had said.

Chulani says it shows an immature mind, stuck in adolescence ' “an individual who is not capable of responsible behaviour and needs therapy”.

What triggers such behaviour' S. Hingorani, another city-based psychologist, says that in the case of celebs, the adoration of millions affects their personality.

“And that seems to turn this phenomenon of celeb lawbreakers with I-can-get-away-with-anything attitude into a trend,” says Chulani.

ABC’s star anchor, while commenting on public acceptance of Stewart after her jail term, had said: “As long as you’re embraced by pop culture, you can do almost anything you want to do.”

“Public adoration is a peculiar phenomenon. Though most media polls showed that the majority thought what Salman did was wrong, yet there was a peculiar acceptance of his offence and an attempt to underplay its seriousness. Such a thing can make a celeb feel he is above the law,” says Hingorani.

“But there is another kind to whom jail offers an opportunity. Whichever way, they keep away from trouble of any kind,” adds Chulani.

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