John Oliver Explains How America’s Bail System Destroys the Lives of the Poor


In the United States, an overwhelming number of defendants spend time behind bars simply because they can’t afford to pay bail—a situation that disproportionately hurts the poor and leads many people to plead guilty to crimes just to avoid jail time, regardless of guilt.

“The frequency and cost of bail have risen dramatically,” John Oliver explained on Sunday. “In 2013, an analysis of New Jersey’s jail population found that nearly 40 percent were being held solely because they couldn’t meet the terms of their bail.”

“If 40 percent of a group don’t meet the basic criteria to be there, that should change your perception of what that group is.”

But even a short stint in jail, oftentimes the only option for the poor, can end up ruining lives for a long time after.

“Jail can do for your actual life what being in a marching band can do for your social life,” Oliver said. “Even if you’re just in for a little while it can destroy you.”

This is made all the more depressing, considering pre-trail services exist and offer a better and even cheaper alternative. Watch Oliver’s segment below:

For more on the shady, highly lucrative bail industry, read our in-depth report here.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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