John Oliver Slams the Criminal Justice System for Setting Former Prisoners Up to Fail


On Sunday, John Oliver dedicated his show to exposing yet another aspect of our broken criminal justice system, this time focusing on what happens to former offenders once they leave prison and attempt to re-enter society. As the Last Week Tonight host explained, it’s an especially timely issue that comes on the heels of the government’s recent release of 6,000 federal inmates once accused of committing low-level crimes.

“The fact that around half of people who leave prison end up going back is horrifying, but when you look at the challenges they face, it gets a little less surprising,” Oliver said. “In fact, let me walk you through what it’s like when you get out of prison—and let’s just start with minute one, because when inmates exit that gate to start a new life, they could find themselves in the middle of nowhere, with little to nothing in their pockets.”

Oliver then sat down with a former prisoner, Bilal Chatman, to help address the seemingly unending number of obstacles he and countless others faced upon leaving prison—starting with society’s negative approach to ex-inmates.

“People are judgmental—people that don’t know,” Chatman said. “I don’t want anybody to look at me as the ex-con. I want them to look at the person I am now. I’m a supervisor. I’m a good employee, I’m an employer.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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