Let John Oliver Show You How America’s Overworked Public Defense System Screws the Poor


On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took America’s criminal justice system to task by highlighting the problems surrounding overworked and under-resourced public defenders across the country—including in one California county where only 60 public attorneys are responsible for a staggering 42,000 cases a year.

“A thousands cases in a year? That’s nearly 3 cases per day,” Oliver noted on Sunday. “Those are Gerard Depardieu wine consumption numbers—at breakfast. And with caseloads that heavy, public defenders cannot possibly prepare an effective defense.”

As Mother Jones has reported in the past, such systematic failures are often paid for by the country’s most vulnerable and poor.

To help make his point, Oliver recruited the likes of television detectives, including Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Sisto, to rewrite the Miranda rights warning to more accurately depict the public defense system’s challenges.