As you might be aware, the American prison system is a fucked-up hell pit carved out by institutionalized racism, despicable politics, corporate greed and many other reprehensible factors that — culturally — we've mostly agreed to ignore. The issues facing our nation's incarcerated (a population rapidly growing) aren't attractive to focus on. They're brutal and sad and easy to dismiss because a lot of people can't find it in their hearts to care about criminals. There's nothing cute about prison advocacy, which is why John Oliver is using song and adorable muppets to get Americans to actually give a shit.
This isn't the first of Oliver's whopping and passionate explainers on Last Week Tonight (he's made a point of tackling major, global issues with equal parts outrage, bewilderment and humor since the show's premiere), but it is one of the most upsetting. Stories of prisoners who had surgery wounds treated with sugar rather than a proper antiseptic, politicians who either ignore or endorse the startlingly inhumane treatment of inmates and companies that are benefitting from prisoners' mistreatment and deaths — you can try to laugh to keep from crying, but — fair warning — it probably won't work.