Jane Fonda on Going to Jail at 81 Years Old: "It Was Just Me and the Cockroaches"

The actress and activist isn't afraid of a little jail time in the name of saving the planet.

When Jane Fonda, 81, was arrested on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C., as she protested climate change, it was just the start of a month-long trend. The actress has been arrested every Friday since and on Nov. 1, she finally went to jail for demonstrating. Now, Fonda has opened up to The Hollywood Reporter to discuss why she believes going to jail is worth it to save the planet:

What we're protesting now is a ticking existential time bomb that encircles everything—everyone's life, the economy, health, the military, national security, everything. We are facing a real catastrophe. The science tells us we have 11 years to make systemic changes in order to prevent it from becoming uncontrollable.

I'm hoping celebrities will read this and want to come join me. I mean I've reached out to everybody I've known, but there are a lot of people I don't know how to reach. And we need you here. It's not scary. You don't necessarily have to get arrested, but even if you do, it's a misdemeanor. It's not a felony. You pay 50 bucks and you get out. Having celebrities there means a lot.

Fonda has been an activist since the Vietnam War in the 1970s, but after her fourth arrest during the ongoing demonstration in Washington, D.C., which has been dubbed "Fire Drill Fridays," it was the first time she spent the night in jail.

"I was in for 20 hours and for seven hours I was in a cell," Fonda told THR. "It was a holding pen. All of the cells had multiple people in them except mine. In my cell it was just me and the cockroaches."

Needless to say, it wasn't comfortable. "The conditions are not great, frankly, and you have to sleep on a metal slab," she said. "And I'm almost 82 years old and I hurt."

But she knows that, as a "white movie star," she was treated much better than most other prisoners. After several hours in a holding pen alone, she was moved to a cell block with four other women, then another cell block with six other women. Fonda talked to these women and heard their stories of "domestic abuse and poverty and despair," which made her "very sad."

"The most disturbing part of it was seeing the people in jail and realizing that this country doesn't choose to put enough resources into social safety nets and mental health services," Fonda said. "So many of the people are there because of poverty and racism and mental health issues."

As for what the future holds for Fonda, she said, "I have to be careful not to get to a point where they're going to keep me for 90 days because I have to begin preparing for Grace & Frankie in January. So I'm not going to get arrested every time. They give you three warnings and so I will step away at the third warning."

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
Filed Under