07/09/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT
Who doesn't have an opinion about Paris Hilton
? Whether she amuses or annoys you, fascinates or infuriates, bores or bewilders, there's no arguing that she has earned a place in the popular culture by living her life so unabashedly in public. So when it became clear that Hilton was willing to talk about the last three weeks of her life—the weeks lived in an L.A. County jail serving out a sentence for probation violation—PEOPLE wanted to ask her the questions we knew were on many of our readers' minds: Why was she sent home and then back? Was her punishment fair? Was she remorseful? Was she allowed to keep her hair extensions while in jail?
Getting the story into the magazine became a story in itself, with media controversy raging over Hilton's attempts to earn money on the first post-jail interviews. In the end, Hilton agreed to an interview and photo shoot with PEOPLE with no strings attached—or money paid.
Finding Paris on the cover will please some while others may be dismayed, believing we are rewarding bad behavior and celebrating underachievement. But for better or worse, Paris is, this week, part of a national debate, and it's our job at PEOPLE to have a voice in that conversation. So see what Paris has to say, and decide for yourself.