On the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver covered how COVID-19 has affected prisons and jails. And the situation, according to the host, is bleak. Among other serious issues, Oliver highlighted the apparent fact that correctional facilities offer problematic living conditions for dealing with a pandemic. Oliver said that because of this, the best response now is to release as many prisoners as possible.
The episode is the latest installment in Oliver’s “Coronavirus” series of episodes focused on COVID-19. Oliver has covered numerous aspects of the pandemic on previous episodes. He’s now turning his attention to prisons and jails as they are home to “the five largest clusters of coronavirus” outbreaks in the U.S. (The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit, says that seven out of the 10 largest outbreaks in the U.S. have been in correctional facilities.)
Last Week Tonight
Oliver notes that there are 2.2 million people in prisons and jails across the country, with an ever-rising number of people 55 years old or older. Many of those people are immunocompromised. This is especially unfortunate, as the negative effects of COVID-19 are heavily stratified toward the elderly.
Last week, at least 43,967 people in prison had tested positive for COVID-19. That’s an 8 percent increase from the week before.— ACLU (@ACLU) June 16, 2020
We must not forget about the people who are incarcerated around the country during this pandemic. https://t.co/ZNYqdeiZvq
On top of the intrinsically poor living conditions in correctional facilities and the population of immunocompromised inmates, Oliver also discusses correctional facilities’ poor sanitary conditions. He says that in some institutions, prisoners are being charged for access to soap, which is especially nonsensical as washing one’s hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the novel disease.
Oliver ends the episode by initiating a clarion call for those with the authority to downsize prison populations. “Realistically,” Oliver says, “we need to be getting as many people out of prisons and jails as possible, which is frankly something we should be doing anyway.”
The below map shows reported positive COVID-19 tests among incarcerated people and correctional staff by state using data scraped on 2020-05-18. For more info please see https://t.co/eBoQ5eve4A. pic.twitter.com/8zgkA8Cq3J— CovidPrisonData (@CovidPrisonData) May 19, 2020
What do you think about this latest episode of Last Week Tonight? Do you have any solutions for dealing with COVID-19 in correctional facilities that weren’t covered by Oliver? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Feature image: LastWeekTonight