John Oliver Jokes About The Ugly Truth: America Has A Huge Prison Problem

7/22/14 6:06PM EST

America officially has the greatest number of prisoners in the world, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy. About 1 in every 100 American adults is locked up right now.

The U.S. prison culture is a serious issue, and you don’t need a statistic to tell you that — but maybe some uncomfortable jokes might help. Funnyman John Oliver spent some time on “Last Week Tonight” bringing to a light an issue that is all too easy to brush under the rug: Why does America have such a prison problem?

We have more prisoners at the moment than China — than China!” Oliver said. “We don’t have more of anything to China … than, of course, debts to China.”

With more than two million Americans behind bars, a whole TV show lineup dedicated to glamorizing (or making light of, at least) prison life, and “Sesame Street” having to explain what “incarcerated” means to kids whose parent(s) might be in jail, maybe Oliver is right: America needs to wake up to this growing problem.

And it’s not just the number of people we’re throwing behind bars that’s concerning, but more so why we’re not paying attention to the dangers that these people also face when paying for their crimes. Sexual assault, for instance, is a real issue that we’re all aware of — so why is it so funny?

At least ‘Sesame Street’ is actually talking about prison.” Oliver said. “The rest of us are much happier completely ignoring it. Perhaps … because it’s so easy not to care about prisoners. They are, by definition, convicted criminals. In fact, it’s so easy not to care that we are really comfortable making jokes about one of the most horrifying things that can potentially happen to them.”

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