WATCH: John Oliver's Hilarious and Heartbreaking Take on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

John Oliver's trademark rant took on the subject of mandatory minimum sentences on Sunday night's show, and despite the heartbreaking seriousness of hte topic, he managed to get off a number of hilarious lines.


“Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they’re used correctly, even a short one can do the trick.”

He hastily added, “Which is a rumor I’ve heard.”

Another one:

“Mandatory minimums require judges to punish certain crimes with a minimum number of years in prison, regardless of context, which is a little strange, because context is important. For example, shouting the  phrase ‘I’m coming” is fine when catching a bus, but not okay when you’re already on the bus. Circumstances make a huge difference, that’s what I’m trying to say.”

Oliver featured a few examples where ridiculously long sentences have ruined people's lives, and those of their children. People like a 24-year-old man who sold small amounts of marijuana to an informant, but was carrying a gun at the time, which led him to being sentenced to 55 years in prison with no possibility of parole.

“He won’t get out until he’s 79 for selling something that’s legal for recreational use in four states and whose main side effect is making episodes of ‘Frasier’ slightly funnier,” Oliver said.

Even the judge who had no choice but to mete out that sentence has gone on the record saying that is just not right.

Obama pardoned just 46 non-violent offenders recently. There are thousands more deserving of that reprieve.

Watch Oliver:

#story_page_ below_article

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.