Taraji P. Henson and Jurnee Smollett are speaking out in support of Jussie Smollet following the former Empire star being sentenced to 150 days in prison for falsely reporting a hate crime.
In a post shared late Saturday, Jussie’s sister and Lovecraft Country star Jurnee Smollett shared an image of a black square featuring only the hashtag #FreeJussie in white lettering. In the photo of the caption, she addressed the disproportionate jailing rate between Black and white Americans before declaring that he should be free.
“Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans,” she wrote. “Jussie is innocent. And … you don’t have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free.”
After being convicted back in December 2021, Jussie officially began his 150-day stay at the Cook County Jail on March 10 — as part of a 30-month felony probation sentence. He was also ordered to pay $120,106 in restitution to the city of Chicago.
Smollett’s former Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson followed his sister’s post on Sunday with her own hashtag statement that referenced the false allegations around the Emmett Till murder.
“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” she wrote. “Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie and none of the people involved with his demise spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant admitted that her claims were false.”
Henson went on to say that “no one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal” and that he has “already lost everything,” including work in Hollywood.
“He can’t get a job. No one in Hollywood will hire him and again as an artist who loves to create, that is prison,” she wrote. “My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair.”
Smollett was facing up to three years in prison after being convicted on each of his five felony counts of disorderly conduct, a charge filed for lying to the police. He was acquitted on a sixth count. The former Empire star had made headlines in January 2019 after reporting to the police that two men wearing masks had beaten him while using racial and homophobic slurs on a street in Chicago.