John Oliver Explains the Ridiculous Way We Lock Up the Poor

June 8th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Sunday night, muckraker comedian John Oliver dug into the topic of bail and inequality in the criminal justice system on "Last Week Tonight." As ATTN: has pointed out before, jails have a growing population, because many who are awaiting trial cannot pay bail. (The taxpayers end up paying for the high cost of jails.)

Oliver told the story of a man who was arrested for driving with a suspended license. He couldn't pay the $1,000 bail so he was sent to Rikers Island, New York City's main jail complex.

"Whether he was guilty or not, the fact is a non-violent offender spent time in Rikers because he didn't have $1,000," Oliver stated. "And this is a systemic problem. Increasingly, bail has become a way to lock up the poor regardless of guilt."

Oliver compared that with Robert Durst, who was accused of murder in Texas. Durst was able to pay the $250,000 bail, did not have to go to jail and fled the state. Oliver explains the inequality within the bail system -- the ridiculous process of bounty hunting -- and a better way of setting bail: