Jussie Smollett is calling for the prison system to be 'dismantled' after serving time earlier this year.
Jussie Smollett has not forgotten what it's like to be left with "you, your thoughts and these walls." In a new interview on SiriusXM’s Sway in the Morning, the 40-year-old actor recalled his experience in the psych ward at the Cook County Jail before he was released on bond in March while he appealed his 150-day conviction.
Smollett said God and his family helped him get through his time behind bars and noted the mental clarity he achieved through fasting.
"I was there for six and a half days. I fasted for six and a half days," he confirmed. Smollett disputed the claim that he had been fasting for Lent. "I was fasting because that's what we do in my family. Like we fast for clarity... I have never in my life, at least in my adult life, been as clear of mind as I was for those six and a half days... I was fasting until I found out whether or not I was gonna be in there for those five and a half months. I just wanted to know what my life was about to look like."
As he put it, "Lord knows I wanted to get out. I’m in the f**king psych ward." While he confirmed he was not in a straitjacket, Smollett said he slept on a restraint bed, though he was not restrained. He also credited the people inside the jail with being "very kind."
"When I left, I thanked them all. I said, ‘I don't know what y'all think either way, but the fact that you didn't let me know what you think either way, and you just showed me respect. I'm grateful for,'" he recalled. Smollett also told the hosts that while he was glad to be leaving, he also didn't want to forget the clarity he had while he was in jail by turning to his phone, smoking or drinking.
"There's something about being in there and having no choice but to surrender -- not to the system, not to a judge or a bunch of old white men, ironically explaining to you about the history of hate crimes and lynching. And you're sitting there and being like, ‘What? Who the f**k are you?’ But you're surrendering to yourself and you're surrendering to -- you're just left there with you, your thoughts and these walls."
After that experience, Smollett has a clear stance on the prison system: He believes it needs to be dismantled.
"As I'm sitting there, I'm like, I know that I didn’t do this, but you’d have to be a different kind of person to really search and try to find the redemption in this," he said. "That place is not meant for redemption. That place is not meant to make you come out better than when you were in."
Regarding the alleged hate crime attack he was convicted of falsely reporting to police, Smollett defended himself, stating, "If I had done something like this, it would mean that I stuck my fist in the pain of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years... It would mean that I stuck my fist in the fears of the LGBTQ community all over the world. I'm not that motherf**ker -- never have been, don't need to be."
"Didn't need to have some sort of rise in his career," he pointed out. "I was on the up and up. I was coming from New York from doing a table read for my dream role in a Broadway show. I had just optioned the rights to the authorized autobiography of Alvin Ailey... All of these things that I was creating, there would be no reason for me to do some dumb corny s**t like that. But people are looking to believe what they believe."
He also admitted that he was embarrassed that the alleged attack happened. "If I were to do something, it would not be to look like a victim," Smollett said. "It would be to look like, if anything, someone strong."
However, now, the star is focused on reclaiming his career. "What I know for sure is every single thing that I auditioned for during that period, I lost. They took it from me," he said. "But every single thing that I created myself is being created. Never again will anybody be able to pull my life from under me like a rug."