08/06/2007 at 02:00 PM EDT
For Kathy Hilton, the toughest part about daughter Paris Hilton
's being in jail
– and on the other side of the glass partition that separated them during visits – was "seeing the rashes on her arms and face from the thin sheets."
Equally difficult, Hilton, 48, tells PEOPLE after a screening of The Kingdom
in Southampton, N.Y., was witnessing the correctional facility's guards physically pulling her 26-year-old daughter away after one visit, "grabbing her under the arm" – and then seeing the words "L.A. County" printed on the back of Paris's jail jumpsuit.
Yet as hard as it was to endure what the elder Hilton observed inside the jail, more overhelming was the media circus she faced once her daughter was freed
and the family was driving her home.
"We were surrounded," recalls Hilton. "There were six helicopters and a pink Hummer advertising bail bonds. We could not get rid of it. It was actually very clever marketing. But we could barely see. They were shining all these lights."
For Paris's homecoming, her mother wished to comfort the Simple Life
star, so she set up a room in what, she said, "used to be the baby nursery for the grandchildren at [Paris's grandfather's] house. I had fresh, really soft towels, and really soft sheets and one of
those really soft, cuddly [blankets] called 'my blankey,' and nice soft pillow cases."
Kathy Hilton's rationale, she said, was that Paris – who currently is "spending time with her cousins in Malibu getting ready to go back to work" – had "been in jail, obviously with the very thin sheets and one pillow and one little thin blanket. That's how [inmates] get rashes. It feels like sandpaper."
Paris's reaction to all this softness, says her mother, was that "she went in, and she looked at the Fresh Farms soap, and she looked at the towels and the Evian water by her bedside. I wanted to make her feel really welcome. And we went downstairs and made a sandwich. And she ran outside with her doggie. And she ran, and she was screaming, 'Oh, this feels so good. I feel so lucky.' "
That was the first day home. "But then," says Kathy, "the next day she got up and the emotions [kicked] in. She couldn't really sleep [in] – she was working that day, doing a photo shoot. I made her a big breakfast. She had pancakes. She said, 'Mom, I want eggs, I want pancakes, I want waffles, I want toast, fresh juice.' "
Prepared to indulge her daughter's wishes, Hilton says, "I went and picked oranges and made her fresh juice. And then that night, she could not go to sleep."
At the end of that day, says Kathy, "She started going through the fan mail. She kept me up until 4:30 in the morning. There are several people who said, 'I wasn't a fan of yours. I never cared about you' – that kind of tone.
"But most of it was, 'I love you, and you're the best, and I'm with you, and my whole family, we're praying [for you].' "
Says Kathy, "I have to tell you, there are so many wonderful people out there."
And the outcome of this entire experience? Kathy Hilton says that if one person can be helped by the example set by her daughter – who now says, according to Kathy, "Mom, one thing I know is that I will never have a drink and get in the car and drive again" – then it was "worth it."