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Sophia Bush, Gabrielle Union, and Others Used Their “Privilege” to Fight for Prison Reform

Morgan Noll
·2-min read

Pascal Le Segretain, Jon Kopaloff, Steve Granitz; Getty Images

According to a July study, incarcerated people are infected by coronavirus (COVID-19) at a rate more than five times higher than the nation's overall rate. To bring more attention to this issue and call for change, various celebrities have joined together (virtually) to deliver an important PSA launched by the JusticeLA COVID-19 Response team and Reform L.A. Jails.

Natalie Portman, Gabrielle Union, Sophia Bush, Shailene Woodley, and other celebs created a video for the #SuingToSaveLives campaign, in which they read testimonies from those currently incarcerated about the unsafe conditions they're enduring amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The individuals whose testimonies are featured—Catrina Balderrama, Rany Uong, DeNeal Young, and more—are each plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed against LA County leadership, USA Today reports.

The testimonies reveal real-life horror stories, including a case in which an individual was forced to share a cell with someone who had a 101-degree fever; a man who had to clean the cell of someone who had tested positive for coronavirus; and stories from those with chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes, who have been refused the proper care and protection they need.

"There's no denying that my white privilege has protected me from the same circumstances as Catrina," Portman says about the individual who was told by a deputy that she "would die in module 1600 from COVID_19."

13 Reasons Why star Brandon Flynn continued, referencing the story of Mark Avila who was repeatedly denied a mask. "Today, the best thing that I can do is use my privilege to get his story out there," Flynn said.

The video also featured Mahershala Ali, Kendrick Sampson, Matt McGorry, Busy Phillips, Sterling K. Brown, Lauren Jauregui, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Dawn-Lyen Gardner.

The message finished with a call to action asking viewers to sign a petition as citizen plaintiffs in the suit against Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the LA Board of Supervisors, and "to show solidarity with those in our county jails," Sterling K. Brown said.

As reported by USA Today, a news release reveals that the video comes six months after the initial lawsuit was filed and JusticeLA and Reform LA Jails are stressing the urgency of this issue.

"This is the coalition’s collective cry for help, as nothing has yet been done to minimize the risk in the county," the release reads. "The LASD has failed to take minimally mandated measures, having all jail facilities remain crowded with no feasible way to allow social distancing. They have also failed to have a system to quarantine newly incarcerated individuals for 14 days, and provide the proper cleaning supplies and kits to maintain the health of the incarcerated and mitigate the spread of the virus."