In last night’s extended issue segment, Jon Oliver tackled the prison problem from every single angle. Basically, he highlighted the fact that there are too many people in prison (1 in 100 in the United States, more than half a million more than in all of China), that a disproportionate number of them are black men, and that we have way too many non-violent drug offenders serving too much time. But beyond that, he also went into the heinous conditions in prisons, a problem that can partially be attributed to the government’s decision to outsource prison services to private contractors to save money (which means substandard food, and even a reported case of maggots in the food).
It’s a hard sell, even for Jon Oliver, because he’s basically asking us to show compassion for people who break the law and essentially lobby for better treatment of criminals. It’s a noble argument, and a necessary one, but even as corrupt and broken as the prison system is, Oliver is not likely to make a lot of headway here. The Sesame Street puppets are a nice touch, though.