Aside from making good on his promise to chug a Bud Light Lime, John Oliver covered a more serious topic on last night’s Last Week Tonight… bail in the United States. Bail, as he says, is a systemic problem that has become a way to lock up the poor regardless of guilt. Currently, 38.5 percent of New Jersey’s jail population are being held solely because they couldn’t meet terms of their bail, and many choose pleading guilty as a way to get out rather than have to stay incarcerated while awaiting a trial.
Not that this is a new problem: Flashing back to a television news special from 1964, the New York City Commissioner of Corrections at the time lamented that being forced to remain in jail is being punished before even being found guilty, which she says destroys our concept of justice. So, why not have pre-trial services that weigh a defendant’s flight risk and ability to pay the bail, which is currently being enacted in Washington, D.C. at great success?
It may just come down to marketing, but John Oliver and the Last Week Tonight writers may have come up with the perfect way to make pre-trial services nearly as exciting as marketable (yet, irresponsible) programs like Dog the Bounty Hunter.