On Sunday's episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on HBO, the comedian host devoted almost 18 minutes to a segment critiquing the U.S. prison system, says the Center for Investigative Reporting. Oliver zeroed in on an incident that occurred in February at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on solitary confinement. U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asks Charles Samuels, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons: “How big is a cell? How big is the average cell in solitary?”
It's the kind of question you'd think the head of our federal prison system would be able to answer quickly. Instead, Samuels “almost comically struggles,” as Oliver puts it. And as Samuels attempts to stall for time, Franken wonders aloud, “Am I asking this wrong?” Finally, Samuels wagers a guess. “The average size should be equivalent to 6 by 4” feet – dimensions less than those of a queen-size bed. It's not until later in the hearing that the prisons director touches back on the question with a new answer: “Actually, it's 10 by 7 – for the cell size.” The segment can be seen here.