John Oliver warns of 'alarming' rate of coronavirus among prisoners

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% 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.”

Video Transcript

JOHN OLIVER: And the fact that the coronavirus is rampaging through prisons and jails is especially alarming, given that there are 2.2 million people being held in them across the country. And inmates are generally a group with higher health risks.

KYLIE MAR: On Sunday's "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver discussed the impact COVID-19 is having on prisons and jails, and how inmates are particularly susceptible to the infectious disease.

JOHN OLIVER: It's hard to practice social distancing when you live in what's basically a closet with two beds and a toilet. 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?"

KYLIE MAR: Not only are inmates confined together. In many instances, they are also immunocompromised.

JOHN OLIVER: Between 1999 and 2016, the number of people 55 or older in prison has increased 280%. And people inside jails are more likely to be immunocompromised with chronic health issues, like diabetes and hypertension. So this is an immensely vulnerable population. And inmates very much know that.

KYLIE MAR: 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 for them to be treated like people, not just inmates.

JOHN OLIVER: There is, frankly, no reason whatsoever we should now also be sentencing people to die from a virus, because that's not justice. It's neglect. And it really matters, because as much as we'd like to pretend that incarcerated people are a separate population, they're not. Whatever they've done, they are still members of our society.

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