WATCH: John Oliver Brilliantly Dissects Our Appalling Bail System

People who have committed non-violent crimes, but cannot afford bail, are sent to jail to await trial. Real estate scion Robert Durst, who murdered several people and dismembered one of them, paid off his, for him, mere pittance of a bail, and continued to walk free.


The appalling bail system was the subject of HBO comedian, crusading-ranter-against-injustice-and-stupidity John Oliver Sunday night. The 17-minute segment covered this disgusting reality that ruins countless lives, and in the case of Kalief Browder, the 21-year-old who was imprisoned for three years on Rikers without being brought to trial, drove the young man to suicide.

Oliver gets off some laugh lines in what is really a very serious piece of journalism. "Jail can do to your actual life what being in a marching band can do to your social life," is one quip.

The numbers are sobering. 40 percent of the people sitting in jail are there because they can't afford bail. Many people stuck in this horrible situation just plead guilty to crimes they did not commit so that they can get out, which dooms them to a lifetime of dimmer job prospects and deepening poverty and despair.

Oliver spends a healthy amount of time taking the piss out of the shady bail bondsmen business, running a hilarious montage of their ads. One company, the "Jesus Christ Bail Bondsmen" comes in for some serious ridicule. "Pretty sure Jesus was rather famously not bailed out," Oliver says. Then there is the frighteningly unregulated bounty hunter business.

Some states are attempting to reform thier bail system, among them Oregon and Florida. "It's scary when Florida is your model for progressive change," Oliver points out. Money and lives could be saved with a rather simple pre-trial service program, which helps assess risks of flight and reminds people to show up for their court dates.

Let's hope Oliver gets the ear of state governments everywhere so that this apalling injustice gets corrected.

Watch his brilliant rant:

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