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Jussie Smollett to spend 150-day sentence in 'terrifying' prison known for brawls and excessive force

The place the 'Empire' actor will call home for the next 150 days is the 'terrifying' Cook County Jail, whose conditions are certainly questionable
UPDATED MAR 12, 2022
Cook County Jail (Scott Olson/Getty Images) with an insert of Jussie Smollett (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Cook County Jail (Scott Olson/Getty Images) with an insert of Jussie Smollett (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

On March 10, 2022, Jussie Smollett ended up being slammed for yelling "If anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself, and you must all know that" during his sentencing. At the time, it may seem like a profound exaggeration, but not anymore. The place the 'Empire' actor will call home for the next 150 days has been revealed, and it certainly seems as if he has good reason to be concerned. 

Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in prison after being found guilty of faking a hate crime in December 2021, but it's not the end of his legal troubles. Days after the verdict, the city of Chicago confirmed it would also sue the actor for wasting $130,000 of police resources on his complaint. Over two dozen cops logged around 1,836 overtime hours in the pursuit of Smollett's claim, the city noted. 


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Even Judge James Linn, who handed down Smollett's sentence slammed the actor over the case, saying, "The only thing I can find is that you craved the attention." The judge also called him "profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic", to which Smollett protested by claiming "I am not suicidal, I am innocent". With the verdict now confirmed, here's a look at the Cook County Jail where the actor will be housed for the next few months.

A sign pleading for help hangs in a window at the Cook County jail complex on April 09, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

'Terrifying' conditions of Cook County Jail

The jail, run by the Cook County Department of Corrections is no stranger to being in the news. Over the past several years, numerous reports of poor conditions and mass fights have made their way out of the prison walls. It is one of the biggest jail complexes in the US, located over 96 acres housing roughly 100,000 detainees annually. Smollett is being housed in Division Eight, reserved for those with illness or injury. 

The division is also known as the jail's Residential Treatment Unit, which made headlines in April 2020 for the death of three inmates from Covid-19. A correctional officer in the division also died that year from the virus, and that's not even the worst story to come out from the jail.  A lawsuit filed in January 2022 also alleges officers of "excessive force" to the point one inmate lost consciousness. 

In 2018, a violent brawl broke out in the Jail's maximum-security division, resulting in dozens of injuries. However, Cook County's issues go back a decade even further, with a 2008  United States Department of Justice investigation. That investigation resulted in a report that said the jail "failed to adequately protect inmates from harm or risk of harm from other inmates or staff; failed to provide adequate suicide prevention; failed to provide adequate sanitary environmental conditions; failed to provide adequate fire safety precautions; and failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care."

Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Courts Building as the jury begins deliberation during his trial on December 8, 2021, in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The report also said inmates had been forced to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding, which resulted in a class-action lawsuit. However, it's unlikely that Smollett will see any of these conditions. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office told The New York Post that Smollett "is being housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officer wearing a body-worn camera who is stationed at the entrance of the cell to ensure that Mr. Smollett is under direct observation at all times."

The spokesperson added, "During times out of cell, other detainees will not be present in the common areas. These protocols are routinely used for individuals ordered into protective custody who may potentially be at risk of harm due to the nature of their charges, their profession or their noteworthy status." The statement also said, "The safety and security of all detained individuals, including Mr. Smollett, is the Sheriff’s Office’s highest priority."