Denzel Washington says upbringing and a lack of father figures are to blame for many young men ending up in jail.
The Oscar winner, 62, was speaking at the premiere of his latest film, Roman J. Israel, Esq., in which he stars as an idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when his partner, the firm’s front man, dies.
Asked if the film made him feel more cynical about the justice system, the star replied: ‘It starts at home.’
The Oscar winner, 62, was speaking at the premiere of his latest film, Roman J. Israel, Esq., in which he stars as an idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when his partner, the firm’s front man, dies. Pictured: Washington as Roman J. Israel
Speaking to NY Daily News, he added: ‘It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure.
‘So you know I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.’
In an earlier interview, the actor touched upon some of his own experiences growing up.
‘I grew up with guys who did decades (in prison) and it had as much to do with their fathers not being in their lives as it did to do with any system,’ he told Reuters.
Pictured: Denzel Washington (right) with director Dan Gilroy and Carmen Ejogo
Washington, recalling some of the people he grew up with, added: ‘By the time we got to 13, 14, different things happened.
‘Now I was doing just as much as they were, but they went further… I just didn’t get caught, but they kept going down that road and then they were in the hands of the system. But it´s about the formative years. You’re not born a criminal.’
Dan Gilroy, who wrote and directed the film, said the cases explored in the film reflected a ‘massively important issue in our country’.
‘Our prison system needs reform at a fundamental level,’ he said. ‘We have the highest incarceration rate of any place in the Western world… It’s not racially equal, it’s not socio-economically equal.’
It’s not the first time Washington has played an attorney.
In the 1993 crime drama Philadelphia he plays a homophobic lawyer who defends a gay lawyer who is fired from his law firm for having HIV.
But the fact he also played a lawyer in his latest film was pure coincidence, he said.
‘It really didn’t have much to do with that,’ he told NY Daily News. ‘It was just that Dan wrote a good script, a good story, the guy happened to be a lawyer. Law wasn’t the thing that attracted me to the story.’