John Oliver Shows Us How Prisoners Stay Trapped Even After Getting Out of Jail


On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver returned to one of his favorite topics, the United States’ penal system.This time, Oliver’s primary segment focused on what happens to prisoners after they’ve served their time, or what’s called “prisoner re-entry.”

As with any topic Oliver covers —including many aspects of the incarceration process like municipal public defenders and the courts’ use of bail— it appears the system broken.

After getting out, many former prisoners do not have the means to provide for themselves and, in many states, cannot receive state benefits —including food stamps, public housing, voting, a driver’s license— because they served time in prison. Those benefits are especially important for newly freed inmates, who will likely have trouble finding a job because they’re asked to declare that fact.

As Oliver points out, that question isn’t exactly fair because we have all done things we want to put behind us…

“Imagine,” Oliver said, “if you had f*&ked a watermelon. Maybe it happened 14 years ago. You’re not proud of it and you’ve changed since then.”

According to Oliver, the U.S. releases more than 600,000 inmates from their prisons every year, and half of those prisoners will go back to jail down the line. Whether it’s because of stringent parole guidelines or sheer desperation, one thing is clear; former prisoners continue paying for their crimes even after they’ve served their time.