John Oliver Looks at the Health Risks of Failing to Air Condition Prisons

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John Oliver Looks at the Health Risks of Failing to Air Condition Prisons

Anybody who’s ever lived in the Deep South knows that having to make it through summer without air conditioning is cruel and unusual punishment. It was barely tolerable down here a century ago, which is why modern air conditioning was developed in the first place; add in the last 100 years of global warming (caused, in part, by air conditioning—what a cycle!), and the Southeast, Texas, and the Southwest are basically the surface of the sun for a solid five months a year. Why else do you think we Georgians spend most of our free time leisurely sipping sweet tea or mint juleps in a rocking chair on our veranda?

Another thing the South is known for, beyond extreme heat: being “tough on crime.” That’s in quotes because, of course, it’s a very select form of toughness that’s generally focused on only certain crimes and specific criminals. One result of this “prisoners must suffer” mentality is a long-standing war against any kind of comforts or so-called “luxuries” in prison—even ones as basic, long-established, and in no way luxurious as air conditioning. So one of the hottest regions of the country tends to actively deprive prisoners of air conditioning, and guess what: that combination can be deadly.

John Oliver, a comical sort of chap who gets off on depressing the hell out of everybody, looks at the dangers of incarcerating prisoners in buildings without AC in the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. Yes, it’s funny, because ultimately that is Oliver’s job, and he’s always been very good at it; it’ll also probably make you sad and angry, too, though, because, again, that’s apparently how he gets his kicks. (It’s also a notably short segment for Last Week Tonight, which makes me wonder what else they had to get through during last night’s half-hour.) If you’re fishing for another thing to get worked up or worked over about, check out the full segment below.