John Oliver on inmates facing increased COVID-19 dangers: 'That's not justice, it's neglect'

Sunday’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, explored the impact COVID-19 is having on prisons and jails in the U.S., and how inmates are becoming increasingly susceptible to the infectious disease. Oliver called for the depopulation of inmates in order to keep them safe.

The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly hard on incarcerated people. For starters, inmates are often grouped together in confined areas.

“It's hard to practice social distancing when you live in what's basically a closet with two beds and a toilet,” said Oliver. “In fact, I'd argue you can't practice most things under those circumstances, apart from games like, ‘Let's try not to accidentally hug each other’ and ‘Who can poop the quietest?’”

Not only are inmates confined together, in many instances they are also immunocompromised. Oliver pointed out that people aged 55 or older have increased 280 percent from 1999 to 2016, and often suffer from chronic health issues like diabetes and hypertension.

Inmates across the country have started riots to call attention to the safety issues, and Oliver is lending his voice to the growing public outcry. “The fact is, we should be depopulating prisons and jails as quickly as we can right now,” said Oliver. “There is no reason we should now also be sentencing people to die from a virus, because that's not justice, it's neglect.”

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver airs Sundays at 11 p.m. on HBO.

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