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John Oliver swipes 'Sesame Street' format to explain prison problem

Jails and PrisonsJohn OliverSesame Street (tv program)Justice System
John Oliver describes the drawbacks of privatizing America's prison using 'Sesame Street'-like puppets

John Oliver spent the second half of his show on Sunday discussing the woeful state of America's prisons, which have seen a ballooning population even while states are moving to privatize them to save money.

How bad has the incarceration problem gotten in America? Longtime children's TV staple "Sesame Street" recently featured a puppet whose father had been sent to jail. "Sesame Street" has long been a place to tackle the basics of childhood life, like numbers, the alphabet, sharing and even some hard topics such as death of a loved one. But prisons?

While the real "Sesame Street" kept it positive, dealing only with the effect that having a parent in prison has on a young boy and the protection and friendship the other puppets offer him, Oliver had grimmer ground to cover. And he decided to use some puppets of his own.

To see Oliver's own version of "Sesame Street," covering the problems of prison, including the preponderance of mental illness and rape behind bars, you'll need to sit through his 14-minute buildup.

But watching Oliver sing his heart out on the steps of a fake Manhattan brownstone makes us wish puppets would be a part of "Last Week Tonight" every week.

Follow me on Twitter: @patrickkevinday

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Jails and PrisonsJohn OliverSesame Street (tv program)Justice System
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