On Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took on the devastating impact our bail system has on the poor, locking many of them up regardless of guilt and potentially destroying their lives.
Saying, “increasingly, bail has become a way to lock up the poor, regardless of guilt,” Oliver before explaining that your options when arrested is to “Go to jail, plead guilty to avoid waiting in jail for a trial, or pay a bail bondsman to front the bail costs.”
As pointed out here, this can lead to the poor often taking the guilty plea even when they’re innocent, because the alternative may be worse, even though a guilty plea can have an impact down the line when applying for a job.
“Poor people are regularly choosing to admit guilt just to get out of there and that isn’t good,” Oliver said. “The only time that’s appropriate is in a Catholic confessional. ‘What do you mean is there anything else? I don’t know, I masturbated into a kiwi fruit. Is that what you wanted to hear? Just let me leave, I have stuff to do.'”
As a public defender explains, people incarcerated because they can’t afford bail risk losing their jobs, or even spots in public housing or shelters, meaning a short stint in jail can completely ruin their lives.
“Exactly,” Oliver explained. “Jail can do for your actual life what being in a marching band can do for you social life. Even if you’re just in for a little while, it can destroy you.”
Faced with no good alternatives, the poor often turn to commercial bail bondsmen which brings its own set of problems, which led Oliver into the pitfalls of an occupation with seemingly no rules, that has been sold to the public in reality television shows.
Watch the video below, uploaded to YouTube by Last Week Tonight: