John Oliver goes after mandatory minimum sentencing laws

What’s John Oliver savaging this week?

Last Sunday, it was food waste. And last night, it was waste of another kind — of lives spent behind bars for nonviolent offenses, as a result of laws that require mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes.

These controversial War on Drugs-era laws were back in the news recently after President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders, a move that Oliver didn’t think went far enough, joking that it was “the criminal justice version of Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen.”.

“There should be a lot more pardons and commutations,” he said. “But if we really want to address this problem permanently, we need states and the federal government, not just to repeal mandatory minimums going forward, but to also pass laws so that existing prisoners can apply for retroactively reduced sentences.

“Because almost everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum laws were a mistake,” he continued. “And we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake.”.

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But as Oliver knows, the legal justice system doesn’t correct itself so easily, and people will almost certainly continue to suffer from mandatory minimum laws. And he’ll probably be talking about it next season, and the one after, and after…

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