John Oliver loves to take a break from the super serious subjects — as was the case with his killer response while trolling Cheerios a few weeks ago — but this week, he got deadly serious. His main Last Week Tonight segment arrives as the U.S. begins to feel the summer heat in earnest (and it ain’t even technically summer yet) while prisoners in multiple states are feeling even worse than those of us who are simply dealing with a broken air conditioning unit. The reason for this is rather cruel yet simple: as Oliver explains, 75% of Texas prisons (and many in other notoriously warm states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, and Alabama) don’t have air-conditioning for prisoners at all, and the result is that people are literally being roasted.
The issue (which was recently detailed by The Texas Tribune) keeps growing worse, as Oliver explains, while summers grow progressively warmer, and he’s not even bothering with subtlety or nuance while discussing the problem:
“While this is clearly just one small part of a much larger discussion about whether and how prisons should exist in this country, until such time as we have that discussion, there’s actually an easy solution to this one problem, and that is, prisons need air conditioning, so put air conditioning in. I know this show has trained you to anticipate nuance, but this one is really pretty straightforward. We shouldn’t be cooking prisoners to death, the end.”
To further compound the issue, many prisoners have complicating health conditions that make them susceptible to heat stroke. That, or they stop taking psychiatric medications that make their bodies less able to process increased temperatures, which creates other problems. Although some people would argue that prisoners don’t deserve comfort, Oliver feels differently, and that it’s a matter of humanity. The host expressed disgust after witnessing State Sen. John Whitmore admit that Texas lawmakers just “don’t want to” put AC into prisons, although Oliver noted that both prison staff and, sometimes, even pig farms on prison grounds are enjoying freon-treated air.
Oliver, of course, finds this ridiculous. And while he’s got nothing against pigs, he does “question prioritizing their comfort over humans.” He added that the situation in Texas prisons is so abhorrent that “the U.N. Committee Against Torture has expressed particular concern about deaths from extreme heat exposure in prison facilities in Texas.” And that’s saying far too much for comfort.
Early on in the episode, Oliver also took on the ridiculous conspiracy theory involving the COVID vaccine and (false) claims that “people are becom[ing] magnetic after getting vaccinated.” For real, more than one person appeared before Ohio lawmakers to claim that they were magnetic and do things like try to stick a key and a bobby pin to their bodies. To Oliver, this ludicrousness is down to “a vacuum of trust in legitimate research” due to waning scientific literacy, which leads people to “try to seek out the minimum amount of information that lets them keep believing what they already believe, in your case, that you’re privy to secret knowledge about a government conspiracy to magnetize the people of Ohio.” He added, “That is probably why you felt confident enough to trust some bullsh*t that you read online so much that you’re willing to look like a complete a**hole in front of all those people.” Also, “people are sometimes sticky. We’re all kind of moist and gross, and keys stick to us sometimes.” Boom.