Did Jussie Smollet Really Refuse Food In Jail?

It has been a wild week for "Empire" star Jussie Smollett, which began with him being sentenced to 150 days in prison stemming from his December conviction for staging an attack where he told Chicago police he was the victim of an anti-queer and anti-Black hate crime. While in prison, news emerged via Smollett's brother Jocqui that Jussie was being held in the Cook County Jail's "psych ward," followed by the revelation on March 15 that Jussie had been moved back into the prison's general population due to pressure from the #FreeJussie movement. While all of this was going down, Jocqui said Jussie's legal team was filing court documents to have the actor released from prison pending an appeal. 

Then late on March 16, Jussie was granted release from prison by the appellate court after spending six days behind bars, meaning that he can remain free pending an appeal of his felony disorderly conduct conviction. Video of the moment Jussie walked free, posted to social media by Newsweek, shows the actor surrounded by his legal team and body guards, dressed in black, being quickly ushered into a vehicle while the media scrum swirls around him. Speaking with the press after Jussie's release, attorney Nenye Uche made a shocking revelation: Jussie had seemingly been on a hunger strike in prison, consuming only ice water for six days. 

Jussie Smollett survived on ice water for six days

Jussie Smollett's attorney Nenye Uche spoke with the media after Smollett walked out of prison a free man pending his appeal and slipped away into a waiting vehicle. Uche was critical of the way this case has played out in the courts system and in the media, and then revealed the toll that this conviction has taken on his client. "Ice water, that's been his food and liquid," Uche stated. "I can only imagine if I was in jail for something I didn't do, I wouldn't be eating."

Reports suggest that Smollett chose not to eat and refused meals for the duration of his imprisonment in an apparent hunger strike. Later in his statements, Uche added that, when Smollett learned the news of his release, "he was shocked" because "I think he had nearly given up." Uche also drew comparisons between this case and the treatment of Black men by law enforcement and implicit bias in the court system. "We've been complaining about the disparate treatment of African Americans in the judicial system regardless of what you think about this case," he added. "Some people might think Mr. Smollett is guilty. I disagree. But a real question is should Black men be locked into jail for a class four felony. Shame on you if you think they should. That's a disgrace. It's wrong."

News of Smollett's release has caused waves of joy on the actor's official Instagram, with his "Empire" co-star and "Hidden Figures" star Taraji P. Henson writing in the comments section, "Praise GOD!!!"