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I've matured: Paris Hilton

Although traumatic, jail experience has helped her grow, says the hotel heiress in an exclusive chat with CNN's Larry King.

tv Updated: Jun 28, 2007 14:11 IST

Hotel heiress Paris Hilton launched a post-jail media make-over, vowing to shed her party-girl image and prove she is a changed person after serving three weeks behind bars for violating probation in a drunken-driving case.

"I'm a good person. I'm a compassionate person. I have a big heart. I'm sincere, and they'll see," Hilton told People magazine in excerpts published on Wednesday from her first interview since getting out of jail Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Appearing later on CNN's Larry King Live show, the 26-year-old multimillionaire said she felt bad that many of her former fellow inmates would end up back on the streets, and back in trouble, because they lack family or support systems.

"I want to help set up a place where these women can get themselves back on their feet ... kind of a transitional home," she said. "I know I can make a difference."

Hilton acknowledged she has long enjoyed the Hollywood party scene but added, "it's not going to be the mainstay of my life anymore."

"I've definitely matured and grown a lot from this experience," she told King. "I could be a more responsible role model."

She spoke in both interviews about why she was briefly released to home detention after just three days in jail -- a move swiftly overruled by a judge after a public outcry over whether she was given special treatment.

"I was basically in the fetal position, basically in hysterics ... and having severe anxiety and panic attacks," Hilton said in the People interview.

She told King she has suffered from claustrophobia since childhood, and in jail was forced to just "deal with it."

"I read letters, I wrote in my journal, and I would just close my eyes and pretend I was somewhere else."

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca raised the issue of suicide, but stopped short of saying Hilton had been in danger of harming herself - when he explained to the county Board of Supervisors why he had placed Hilton under house detention.

Hilton, who spoke to People at her grandfather's Bel Air mansion said she spent time in jail reading the Bible and praying to God for strength.

"There was a nun who works at the jail for all the ladies, and she would come every day and we would pray," she said. "There were girls next to me. ... We could talk through the vents and they were just really sweet."

During her first week in jail, Hilton called television journalist Barbara Walters and pledged to change her party-going ways and give new meaning to her life by pursuing charity work.

The incarceration of the young socialite and actress, who lampooned her own persona as a clueless child of privilege on the reality TV show "The Simple Life," ignited a media frenzy and debate about celebrity justice.

The saga hit a crescendo when Hilton was placed briefly under house detention, sparking an uproar over what many saw as preferential treatment. A Los Angeles Times analysis, however, found her sentence far exceeded those served by most inmates for similar offenses.