Justice

John Oliver Explains the Ridiculous Way We Lock Up the Poor

June 8th 2015

By:
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: