John Oliver: Prison sentences are like penises — ‘If used correctly, even a short one can do the trick’
On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver got into the nitty gritty of mandatory minimum prison sentences that have resulted is sky high incarceration rates — mainly for minor drug related offenses.
Noting that President Barack Obama recently freed 46 nonviolent offenders, Oliver said we need to take a hard look at connection between the crime and the punishment meted out.
“Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime,” Oliver explained. “Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they’re used correctly, even a short one can do the trick.”
He then added, “Which is a rumor I’ve heard.”
“Mandatory minimums require judges to punish certain crimes with a minimum number of years in prison, regardless of context,” Oliver said. “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 pointed out that the genesis of mandatory minimum sentencing came about in relation to the drug paranoia of the 80’s and 90’s, turning minor offenses, such as possession or the sale of pot, into long prison stays.
He then related the story of 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.
As Oliver pointed out, the judge who sentenced the man said of his punishment, “That’s not right.”
Watch the video below from HBO’s Last Week Tonight: