〉The Erin Brockovich star will play an attorney taking on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons over the treatment of inmates at the ADX, which was once famously described as “a clean version of hell.”
Julia Roberts is set to star in and produce ADX, a drama about the real life harrowing and potentially groundbreaking lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons over the treatment of inmates at the infamous ADX supermax facility in the Rocky Mountains. According to sources, the project is based on a NY Times Magazine article, “Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison,” written by Mark Binelli. Roberts is producing through her Red Om Films banner for HBO Films.
The Oscar-winner will play an attorney who receives a letter from an inmate at the remote maximum security prison speaking of the injustices going on in the prison. She partners with another attorney to take on the B.O.P. and to expose the injustices at the ADX. The premise, with its David-vs-Goliath set-up and themes of exposing the truth against all odds, has shades of Roberts’s iconic Erin Brockovich and this year’s Best Picture nominee Spotlight.
Known as the ADX, the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado is the highest-security prison in the country and the only federal supermax facility. The “Alcatraz of the Rockies” incarcerates the worst of the worst, most of whom are serving multiple life sentences and thus have little disincentive to, for example, murder a guard or another prisoner. In the words of former ADX warden Robert Hood, “This place is not designed for humanity… It’s not designed for rehabilitation. Period. End of story.”
The deplorable treatment of ADX prisoners first came to the attention of Deborah Golden, an attorney for pro bono legal-aid group the D.C. Prisoners’ Project, when she received a letter from an inmate alleging that he had not received a hearing before being transferred to the facility. The hearing should have been procedure, especially given B.O.P. regulations that forbid the placement of inmates at ADX that show evidence of significant mental disorder, as this particular inmate did. Looking into the letter, she discovered dozens of inmates at the ADX with similar stories or worse.
To that point, much of the D.C. Prisoners’ Project’s work focused on state-run prisons because the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act made it more difficult for prisoners to file federal lawsuits, and because the federal government possesses an almost inexhaustible supply of resources. In order to have the resources to take on such a case, Golden approached the law firm Arnold & Porter, where Denver-based partner Ed Aro took an interest in the case and came on board for what has become the largest lawsuit ever filed against the United States Bureau of Prisons.
Roberts, who in 2014 received her fourth Oscar nod for her turn in August: Osage County, most recently starred opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman in Secret in Their Eyes. She can next be seen in Garry Marshall’s latest ensemble holiday pic Mother’s Day and stars with George Clooney and Jack O’Connell in Money Monster, directed by Jodie Foster. [See the Money Monster trailer here]
Red Om previously produced the actress’s hits Eat Pray Love and Mona Lisa Smile, as well as Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and a series of American Girl TV movies. Lisa Roberts Gillan and Marisa Yeres will oversee the project for Red Om. Tara Grace will oversee for HBO Films.
Roberts is repped by CAA.
Katia Juanita | Staff Writer