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The U.S. bail system is "arbitrary, destructive, and criminalizes poverty" - John Oliver

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

John Oliver examines the backlash to the U.S. bail reforms in numerous states, which requires those arrested, but not yet convicted, to pay collateral to a local jail. He calls out that this system keeps people unjustly locked up, since those who can’t afford to pay remain behind bars. Roughly two in three people held in local jails across the country have not been convicted of a crime.

"The system is rife with traps keeping people locked up: bail hearings often last just a few minutes with no defense counsel present – 'I don’t know exactly how long it should take to put a price on someone’s freedom, but it probably shouldn’t fit neatly into an Instagram story,' Oliver noted."

US bail system keeps people incarcerated.

Oliver advocates for a system based on a set of principles, including bail hearings more than 10 seconds, counsel being required at hearings, expediting trials for people who are detained, and allowing people to stay free on minor charges.

“Most of them are there because they simply couldn’t afford to bail themselves out, which is terrible,” Oliver explained. “We shouldn’t hold people captive in shitty conditions simply because they can’t buy their way out – that is what Spirit Airlines is for.”

Read more about John Oliver’s thoughts on cash bail in the U.S. here:

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