John Oliver: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws "Do More Harm Than Good"
"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."
John Oliver expanded on the topic of mandatory minimum sentencing laws on Sunday, calling it "basically the criminal justice version of Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen, but with the chance to walk free rather than disappoint Padma [Lakshmi] with your risotto."
The laws require judges to punish certain crimes with a minimum number of years in prison, regardless of context, and they're partially responsible for the country's crowded prisons. This is especially true of drug-related crimes, as Oliver showed how one prisoner was sentenced to life in prison, or treated "like he's season-five Walter White when he's barely episode-one Jesse Pinkman."
"Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime," Oliver continued, presenting examples of changing opinions on mandatory minimums — including the judges who have to sentence them. "Prison sentences are a lot like penises: if they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick." Altogether, mandatory minimums "do more harm than good," and "affect minorities the way that hockey injuries affect white people: not entirely, but disproportionately."
Oliver closed the segment by stressing the need for more pardons and retroactively reduced sentences, "because almost everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum rules were a mistake, and we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake."
Watch the video below.