HBO’s John Oliver Slams the Drug War on the Regular

By Tony Newman

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

For some years now, Comedy Central and HBO have played a huge role in educating people about some of the most important issues of the day. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Larry Willmore and John Oliver are all skillful at both educating and entertaining us. They are so impactful that presidential candidates and others running our country make it a priority to go on their shows.

Oliver, with his extensive 15-minute segments on his spinoff show on HBO, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, digs deeper into issues than most traditional news channels. One issue that Oliver has taken the lead on is ridiculing and slamming our country’s disastrous war on drugs. Oliver hits the drug war from all angles. Here are four excellent segments that show Oliver is becoming one of the most influential voices in our country to say loud and clear: No More Drug War.

Oliver Slams Mandatory Minimums and Mass Incarceration

Just last week, Oliver piggybacked off the news of President Obama’s 46 commutations and pivoted to our country’s insane mandatory minimums and their role in making the US the world leader in incarcerating its people.

Oliver Blasts the U.S. Bail System for Locking up Poor People Regardless of Guilt

Oliver recently took on the U.S. bail system pointing out that it has increasingly become a way to lock up the poor, regardless of guilt. Oliver referenced a report by the Drug Policy Alliance that found nearly 40 percent of the jail population in New Jersey is held solely because they don’t have the money for bail, which can be a little as a few thousand dollars. The average length of time people wait in jail is 10 months.  It won’t surprise you that the vast majority of those locked up are poor people of color.

Oliver Shows How Law Enforcement Can Steal Your Stuff: Civil Assets Forfeiture

Oliver brilliantly showed how the police, thanks to the war on drugs, can basically steal your stuff, even if you have never been convicted off a crime. And then it is up to you to prove that you are innocent. Law enforcement gets to keep everything they seize.

The Drug Policy Alliance released a report, Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California, which looked at asset forfeiture abuses in California that revealed the troubling extent to which law enforcement agencies have illegally used the practice to pad their budgets.

Oliver Explains How Racist Drug War Fuels Mass Incarceration

Oliver delivered a devastating critique on our racist drug law enforcement, the role it plays in fueling mass incarceration and the inhumane treatment and abuse people face behind bars. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, but nearly 25 percent of the world’s people behind bars.

What is interesting about Oliver’s coverage is that he not only addresses more traditional topics like mass incarceration, but he is also ahead of the curve on taking on other criminal justice issues like asset forfeiture abuse and the bail bond racket. Both of the issues are starting to break through in the national media and Oliver deserves credit for helping bring those issues a national audience.

His show is not only one of the first to talk about these issues, but also one of the most influential and far-reaching.  Millions of people tune in every week and walk the thin line of laughing and crying when it comes to learning about our country’s “criminal injustice” system.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)

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