John Oliver Eviscerates US Prison System


“At least sesame street is actually talking about prison; the rest of us are much happier completely ignoring it.  Perhaps because it’s so easy not to care about prisoners.  They are by definition convicted criminals.”

And when the Director of US Prisons testified before the US Senate, Sen Al Franken can’t even get an answer to the simplest of questions: what is the size of the average cell?  The Director of US Prisons stammers and looks confused as if there’s absolutely no conceivable reason how the “size” of a cell would be relevant to anything!  Sen Franken struggles to keep re-forming the question in more specific terms – “size, as in feet and inches” he says – and finally gives up turning to another Senator to ask, “Am I asking this wrong?”

Al Franken Questions US Prisons DirectorNope, you were not, funny man.  Eventually the Senators are told the average cell size is 10 x 7.

It’s pretty much impossible to pursue reform when there is no political concience willing to even asses the status quo.  :We don’t know because we don’t care” is the attitude, and perhaps understandably.

“What is clear is that we are doing a terrible job taking care of people that it is very easy for us all not to care about.”

Privatization of prison suppliers

Oliver also calls out how an exploding industry of private suppliers is failing prisoners.  Food suppliers have run out of food and one news report found maggots found in prison food.

Healthcare can be similarly lacking for prison inmates: 50 people died in Arizona DOC custody so far this year, for example.  Inadequate staffing and medical resources plague many facilities.  Oliver focuses on one woman who describes prison medical staff pouring packets of table sugar into her c-section for weeks after she gave birth in prison.

Prison Healthcare Abuse

“You will never pay a political price for treating prisoners…badly.  You don’t even need to pretend to care.”  Then he plays a clip of an Arizona state legislator callously accusing the prisoner who had sugar poured into her wound of lying since inmates have so much time to think up allegations while incarcerated.

Total Reform Needed

“This is all so depressing.  Private prisons are bad, yes.  But the whole system just seems fundamentally broken.”

Cliff Satell

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