Natalie Portman, Gabrielle Union, Joaquin Phoenix and Mahershala Ali are among the stars featured in a new campaign video PSA titled #SuingtoSaveLives, released Thursday, in which they call for the protection and safety of incarcerated individuals within the LA County Jail system from COVID-19.
In the PSA launched by the JusticeLA COVID-19 Response Coalition team, powered by Reform LA Jails, stars also including Sterling K. Brown, Kendrick Sampson, Matt McGorry, Busy Phillips, Sophia Bush, Brandon Flynn, Lauren Jauregui, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Shailene Woodley, and Dawn-Lyen Gardner each read a declaration from one of the currently incarcerated plaintiffs that showcase the struggles and unsafe conditions existing for them amid the pandemic.
The PSA follows an emergency class-action lawsuit filed six months ago against LA County leaders and the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for failing to protect the lives and safety of incarcerated individuals from contracting COVID-19 in county jails.
By reading the testimonies, the stars fight to bring awareness and urge for people to “step up as citizen plaintiffs in this lawsuit to show solidarity with those in our county jails.” Supporters will be able to sign their names to a petition as a citizen plaintiff to sue Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the LA Board of Supervisors
“We have asked the following people to amplify the voices of those currently incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, by reading their testimonies. These are the words of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit to hold the LA County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff’s Department accountable to the public,” the PSA begins with.
“There’s no denying that my white privilege has protected me from the same circumstances … so today the best thing that I can do is use my privilege to get his story out there,” some of the stars said as they alternated reading testimonies from incarcerated plaintiffs expressing fear over their health and safety.
“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,” the JusticeLA COVID-19 Response team said in a statement.
“We already knew jails and prisons were public health hazards, but now, COVID-19 is exposing the cracks in the system. It’s unacceptable to allow thousands of Angelenos to squander in cages during a global viral pandemic,” the JusticeLA COVID-19 Response team states on their website. “We can raise our voices with such intensity and fervor that the Los Angeles criminal justice system will be forced to listen. We can and will demand the respect, health, and wellness that all Angelenos deserve.”
Watch the PSA below.