John Oliver used this week's Last Week Tonight to look at a very popular trend in entertainment: America's fascination with prisons. With shows like Orange Is the New Black taking off in a major way, you'd expect Americans would know a lot about our systems of incarceration. However, outside of programs like Sesame Street offering some Muppet-friendly facts, actual education about prison conditions is in limited supply.
So Oliver laid down some facts for his audience. One in every 100 adults in America is incarcerated, he noted, totaling over 2 million in prison or jail. Also a fact: Conditions in those prisons are inhumane and depressing.
Not knowing a prisoner or being one naturally means you'll know less about prison conditions, and that's understandable. Less understandable for Oliver: Director of Federal Prisons Charles E. Samuels, Jr. not being able to remember the size of a solitary confinement cell at a Senate subcommittee meeting. When Samuels finally did 'remember' the size – six feet by four feet – Oliver wasn't satisfied.
"One, that was clearly a guess," he said. "And two, six by four is barely an elevator. That is the length of a six-foot party sub by the length of the amount of that party sub that's left over the following day. Because no one wants party subs."