Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (2014) s02e07 Episode Script

Municipal Violations

1 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver S02E07 Municipal Violations Welcome, welcome, welcome to "Last Week Tonight".
I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for being with us.
Just time for a quick recap of the week.
And we begin in Israel.
Drama-wise, the opposite of Canada.
Now, Israel had their election this week, and despite being behind in the polls, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's likud party won resoundingly, which some credit to Netanyahu's last-minute swing to the even-farther right.
The Prime Minister, Netanyahu said yesterday on his watch, there's not going to be a Palestine, there's not going to be a two-state solution.
So no two-state solution then.
But hold on, let's not jump to conclusions.
Maybe he only said that because he's planning on a three-state solution, Israel, Palestine, and bonus Palestine.
We don't know.
We don't know for sure.
Let's accept in part due to that promise, Netanyahu looks like is here to stay.
And the problem that he now has is, how's he going to convince the U.
that he's a credible partner for negotiation, given that he explicitly said he would not allow a two-state solution, but only a one-state solution? I don't want a one-state solution.
I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.
But for that, circumstances have to change.
Now, that's pretty impressive because that is a Michael Jackson level of walking backwards.
He, he just demonstrated the verbal gymnastics of a guy caught being too honest on his first date.
I don't want kids.
Wait, hold on you want kids? I love kids, and in the right circumstances, I could absolutely see myself having them.
I never said I don't want kids.
This is why what Netanyahu just said is so amazing.
He was trying to escape something he'd said that had left him almost no wiggle room.
Asked if it meant, that meant there would be no Palestinian state if he were to continue as prime minister, Netanyahu responded, correct.
How do you get out of that? It's impossible.
I've got to say, if he somehow gets out of this, he should go on the road as Netanyahoudini.
Words cannot hold him! Let, let's move on to Starbucks the acoustic Alanis Morrisette album with a coffee house wrapped around it.
This week, Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz unveiled a bold new initiative to his employees.
What if we were to write race together on every Starbucks cup and that facilitated a conversation between you and our customers? And if the customer asks you what this is, try and engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country with regard to race and racial inequality.
I think it's pretty clear, no one has said no to this guy in 25 years.
Look, heres the thing a conversation about race is clearly important, but there's a time and a place.
And it's not the length of time it takes to whip up a tiramisu frappucino.
But still, let's give Howard Schultz credit because he he did start a conversation across the racial divide with a white billionaire pitching an idea, and any number of African-American customers telling him how stupid it was.
Not sure what Starbucks was thinking.
I don't have time to explain 400 years of oppression to you and still make my train.
I'm not sure that systemic change is going to happen by talking to your barista at Starbucks.
He's right about that because think about it best case scenario, you get a heartfelt conversation about race going, only to have it justifiably interrupted by someone screaming, can we solve racism later? I'm late for fucking work.
And the problems didn't stop there, because Starbucks wound up having some conversations about race that they probably hadn't anticipated.
Some critics say the company's executive team likes diversity.
Many people put up a link to the company's website, actually featuring picture of mostly white, mostly male leadership.
The race together campaign is taking a lot of flack online with many people bashing the company on Twitter including some questioning why Starbucks promotional photos only included white hands.
Hey! How's that conversation on race going, Starbucks? Lots of fun, right? What if this could be every morning? But it was what happened as a result of that backlash that shows you how unprepared Starbucks really was for this conversation.
Starbucks' own V.
P of communications temporarily deleting his Twitter account under an avalanche of criticism saying he felt personally attacked in a cascade of negativity.
End of conversation, I guess everyone.
Good talk, good talk people.
Nice try, Starbucks! I guess now at least you can go back to doing what you do best, burning coffee and glaring at us for using your bathrooms without buying anything.
Just stay in your lane.
And finally, tonight, New Hampshire where live free or die is a legitimately difficult choice.
It has always held a special place in American politics, and earlier this month, some local fourth graders visited the state capitol to learn how government worked.
As part of a civics project, a group of fourth graders including 9-year-old Mya Roka, crafted a bill to make the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor.
Mr Cutting's fourth-grade class arrived in the house gallery to watch their bill come up for a vote, they were greeted by enthusiastic applause.
Well, that's fantastic.
What a great opportunity for the kids to engage in the political process and be inspired.
I can only presume that their state raptor bill sailed right through.
We already have a state bird but now do we need a state raptor? Isn't that a bird? Isn't that an animal? So are we going to have, you know, flightless birds, water fowl, pet birds, garden birds, wild birds? How many of these bills do we need to have? If we keep bringing more of these bills and bills, and bills forward that really I feel we shouldn't have in front of us, we'll be picking a state hot dog next.
What is wrong with you? A: this doesn't matter.
B: the children are in the room.
And C: this doesn't matter.
Just vote yes and make them happy.
And sadly, the story didn't end there.
Because state representative Warren Groen also decided it was appropriate to use the red-tailed hawk to make a completely unnecessary point.
It is known for extremely strong and sharp talons.
Which, which it grasps its prey But it graps it with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to rip its victim to shreds and to basically tear it apart limb by limb.
And I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for planned parenthood.
What the fuck are you talking about? For a start for a start, everyone knows planned parenthood already has a mascot! It's plan bee, the planned parenthood bee Hey guys, did you hear the buzz on spermicidal lubricant? No, thank you, plan bee.
You're the best.
And this wasn't just a few cranks.
The legislature actually defeated the children's bill, a 133 to 160 and presumably, then celebrated by looking up at the kids and saying, nice try, idiots.
By the way, Santa's not real and Dora the explorer can't hear you.
Now, this must have been devastating for the kids.
But if their stupid state government will not properly honor the red-tailed hawk, then we will.
And that is why I'm proud to announce the red-tailed hawk is the new official raptor of "Last Week Tonight".
Here it is, a real live predatory hawk in a television studio.
And to show just how wrong New Hampshire legislators were to deny those fourth graders from Lincoln Akerman school their red hawk request, we've prepared this.
Red-tail hawks, the official raptor of "Last Week Tonight".
Why? Because they f-in rock! They'll take out a rattlesnake.
Chill on a basketball hoop Then they feed their babies But wait, that's not all.
They'll grab a Pheasan while doing a midair 360.
Let's watch that again! But don't just take it from us.
Here some Red-tail hawk fact from a guy in the 90's Red-tail hawk found all in the North America probably the most common bird of prey in the US This guy's incredible.
Give me more hawks facts, man.
Most of the book estimate their grasp in strength is about 200 pounds per square inch pressure.
One more hawk fact.
The stooping speed for the Red-tail hawk is about 100-120 miles an hour.
That's enough hawk facts And all this is why the red-tail hawk is "Last Week Tonight" official raptor.
Raptor scream! Congratulations, fourth graders! Red hawks are awesome! And now, this.
Top of the morning to you there Patrice, how are you doing there? Top of the morning to you.
Top of the morning to you! - Top of the morning to you, ??? - Top of the morning to you! And top of the morning to you! Happy St.
Patrick's day.
Oh, it's St.
Patrick's day today.
Happy St.
Patrick's day, everybody.
- A wee bit of a parade there.
- Wee bit Kept up their makeup on, they had their beautiful outfit ready I can't do an irish accents.
"Hello lads" - What are you talking about, Brad? - It's.
You sound Jamaican.
I sound Jamaican? Moving on.
Our main story tonight concerns municipal violations.
They're the small, everyday ways of breaking the law, like speeding, or trespassing, or and this is true, failing to vaccinate your ferret.
That's actually against the law.
Sorry, ferret Jenny McCarthy.
But you're just going to have to get it done.
The point is, we have all committed municipal violations.
And if you've never gotten a ticket for one, all I can say is congratulations on not getting caught.
Now, for most people, tickets are just annoying.
We grin and bear them or, as in this case of this young woman, throw a passive-aggressive tantrum.
Citations for? I know.
My headlights weren't on, yada, yada, yada.
You're right.
It's a citation for not having your head lights on.
Take a loose ticket on before the third of, whoa Let me explain, ok? I have I totally get it.
Like, it's a ticket.
I need to pay it.
I'm late.
You just know that woman behaves that way in every situation.
Yah, I totally get it.
It's a funeral.
Mindy was a person, now she's gonna be, like, eaten by worms.
Just, just put her in the ground so I can get to soul cycle.
I'm late.
Now, she's probably not thought about that ticket until, I'm guessing, around about now, when she's getting a lot of text messages from friends saying.
Amber, you're totally on HBO right now shouting at a cop.
But if you don't have enough money to pay a fine immediately, tickets can wreck your life.
Let me introduce you to a woman named Harriet Cleveland.
She had some low-level traffic tickets.
But because she couldn't pay them straight away, she accumulated all kinds of other fees and additional tickets, which despite her best efforts she was unable to pay off.
And then, one morning, this happened.
I had my grand baby with me and I was sitting up giving him breakfast that morning and I heard a knock on the door.
I seen the police officer at my door.
And in the back of my mind it wasn't for me, because I didn't figure they come get you for tickets.
I was escorted to jail.
And if you're thinking, how the fuck is it possible for a grandmother to go to jail for traffic tickets? Well, that is what this story is about because let's start at the beginning.
Most tickets come with a fine.
And if you've ever lived paycheck to paycheck, you know that can be difficult.
For example, in Dekalb county, Alabama, a speeding ticket is $255.
If you earn minimum wage there, $7.
25 an hour, it would take you more than 35 hours of work to pay that off, which seems harsh.
Because the only justifiable way you should lose an entire week of your life due to speeding is if you hit 88 miles an hour and go back in time.
And sometimes, governments will take a reasonable base fine and turn it into something people may not be able to afford, as they have done in California.
The actual fine for running a stop sign is $35, but by that time the state tax on ten different surcharges and fees, the amount you owe jumps to $238.
Now, just to put that in perspective, I went on e-bay this morning, and $238 is the current asking price for this glorious unicorn with wheels on its hooves.
So that's right, if you live in California and run a stop sign, you can either pay your ticket or own a unicorn.
Now, now courts know that not everyone can pay fines straight away, which is why some allow a payment plan.
Unfortunately, that can turn out to be even more expensive.
In Illinois, the state adds on 30% if you fall behind in your payments.
In New Orleans, it costs you 100 bucks just to sign up for a payment plan.
Your payment plan begins with a payment plan payment.
It's like your probation officer is M.
Just go pay the clerk at the top of that endless staircase.
You'll be fine.
And this situation is widespread.
At least 44 states charge people a fee to be on probation.
And many municipalities use these charges as a way to fund local services without raising taxes.
And if that rings a bell at all to you, it may be because of Ferguson, Missouri.
Because when the recent department of justice report uncovered institutional racism, it found one of the ways it manifested was in the use of fines as a cash machine.
The report says officers competed to see who would write the most tickets.
It also concludes police officers promotions depended on citation revenue.
Then there's the story of a police commander who one day bragged to his superiors about seeing a steady stream of people, 10 to 15 deep, waiting in line for hours to pay traffic fines.
He wrote, the court clerk girls have been swamped, and the city manager responded, great work.
Setting aside the fact he used the phrase, "court clerk girls", that situation is ridiculous.
The only people who should be that excited about people waiting in line to hand over way too much money are apple executives.
That's the only time.
And if you couldn't pay immediately in Ferguson, they could bleed you dry.
Listen to just one example.
In 2007, one woman received two parking tickets that together totaled $152.
To date, she has paid $550 in fines and fees to the city of Ferguson.
Yet today she still inexplicably owes Ferguson $541.
That's more than $1,000 for $150 in tickets.
Even people stocking hotel minibars are thinking, that markup seems a little high.
Just settle down.
And the thing is, using fines to fund government was not happening just in Ferguson, as a recent study of the surrounding area showed: According to court records, eight towns rely on court fines and fees for more than 30% of their revenue.
Calverton park is at the 66% level.
66%? When that much of your budget comes from fines, you're actually rooting for people to break the law.
Listen, everyone, we're going to have to close the library unless someone urinates up that wall and the rest of us start driving like maniacs.
So put the pedal to the metal.
Let's do it for the kids! And, and the problem is, in these situations, the poor get hurt the worst.
In many states, failure to pay a fine on time Can even result in having your driving license suspended.
In fact, this is such a common practice, that in orange county, Florida, they even made an event out of it.
The Grinch himself showed up in orange county with a bag full of licenses belonging to drivers who have been more naughty than nice.
We're sending the message that if you're going to come out here and you gonna drive in a manner that affects somebody else's life or safety, then we're going to impact your life.
Ok, Ok.
First of all, you do know the Grinch is the bad guy in that story, right? It's not about a brave green crime fighter who saves Whoville from a guy driving his sleigh ten miles over the speed limit.
But secondly, the Grinch's argument that this was about affecting people's lives and safety was somewhat undercut a little later in the same report.
Many of these licenses were suspended simply because the drivers didn't pay a traffic ticket.
Those licenses Weren't all taken from reckless drivers.
Odds are, they were mostly taken from insolvent drivers.
In 2012 in Florida, a staggering 88% of all license suspensions were due to failure to comply with summons or fines, which is insane.
It also leaves only 12% for Florida's other most common violations.
Accidentally taking your golf cart on the freeway, feeding meth to an alligator, feeding an alligator to a meth dealer, and being an alligator meth dealer.
The problem is, the problem is if you do lose your license, it can affect everything.
Most Americans drive to work.
And if you can't do that, you've got a problem.
In New Jersey, a survey of low-income drivers who'd had their license suspended found that 64% percent had lost their jobs as a result, which doesn't help anyone.
You need them to pay their fine, but you're taking way their means of paying it.
That's the most self-defeating idea since gay conversion camp.
Hey, don't worry, boys.
We'll fix you.
It's swimming in the morning.
Wrestling in the afternoon in the evening general horse play in the woods.
You'll be fine.
You'll be fine, chaps.
So let's, let's recap, if you get a ticket and you can't pay it, you may get additional fines, lose your license, and eventually your job.
And if you're thinking, is there any way this whole situation can be made even worse? Relax, there is.
Because now private companies have somehow managed to insert themselves.
Private probation companies across the US supervise people who are on probation for minor offense, collect all of their outstanding debts and fines and court costs and they won't charge the courts a penny.
Instead, probationers pay them fees in exchange for their services.
Yes, companies like judicial correction services and sentinel offender services offer to supervise probationers and collect fees on the court's behalf, at no cost.
They even market themselves with ads like this one, for J.
, trumpeting the millions of dollars they collect for municipalities.
The problem is that money is a lot like Wendy's chili.
It's fantastic to have, just as long as you don't think about where it came from Because it can come from people like Hali Woods August of last year, I got a no seat belt ticket.
How much was that ticket for? It was The ticket was $25 and court costs was $16, which was 41, and then I didn't have the money to pay, so they put me on JCS probation.
That's right, Hali was handed over to J.
probation because she couldn't pay a $41 ticket.
They put her on a payment plan with a monthly fee of $35.
The problem for Hali was, any money she sent in was applied to her J.
Fees first and not her $41 ticket, which put her in a hamster wheel of hell.
This one right here shows I paid another $10.
It shows that the fees went down but the fine is still $41.
I've told the judge that I had the money to pay for the ticket and I couldn't afford the rest of the fees and he said that that wasn't his problem and that I could just put that $41 towards the probation.
And then I got another one that shows I paid $41 even and the fine has not been touched not one time all the money I've paid.
So if you have money, the state's slogan is click it or ticket.
But if you don't, it should really be buckle yourself or go fuckle yourself.
And in case you're somehow not angry enough by now, just remember how the system works if you do have money.
I know! My headlights weren't on, yada yada yada.
Let me explain.
Ok? I have.
I totally get it.
Like, it's a ticket.
I need to pay it.
I'm late.
You didn't think it was possible to dislike her anymore, did you? Amber, you're back on TV, this is sick.
And, and it's not just that these private probation companies can take your money.
Their recommendations to the court can ultimately send you to jail.
Take the case of Tom Barrett He is a veteran who stole a $2 can of beer, which he knows he should not have done.
And when he couldn't pay his fine, he was referred to sentinel offender services.
In addition to all their other fees, they gave Tom a court-ordered leg monitor, for which they charged him $360 a month, $12 a day.
To keep up on his payments, he had to start selling his own plasma.
And where do you think this story ended? I ended up having to walk everywhere because I didn't I couldn't afford bus fare.
I went hungry because I couldn't afford food.
It was $12 a day and there was no way I could make $12 a day, so I thought I was falling behind.
So I ended up getting locked up 3 times over stealing this can of beer.
Locked up three times over stealing one can of beer.
That's not justice, that's the plot of "Suddenly - Les Miserables.
" I dreamed a dream I stole a Coors And then some assholes put me in jail The, the crazy thing is, The most insane part of this is the main reason municipalities sign contracts with these companies is to save money.
And yet, this whole system doesn't even make sense on a financial basis.
Because as Tom Barrett's lawyer explains, locking him up was expensive.
I know that jailing cost $50 a day, and I think he was probably in jail for at least 60 days or 70 days, so probably over $3,500.
So just think about that, a $2 can of beer caused a $270 fine, which the city spent over $3,000 to try and enforce.
You know, it's like they say, you got to spend money to make money to be able to afford to jail people to lose money.
That's the system, right? And, and all this brings us right back to where we began, with Harriet Cleveland, because her story touches on pretty much everything we've seen so far.
How did Harriet wind up in jail? Well, she struggled to pay traffic tickets, had her license suspended, had to keep driving or she'd lose her job, was then caught driving without a license, ticketed again, and then had her fines handed over to the good people at J.
And I'll let her pick the story up from there.
I just really lost a whole lot of money paying to them that didn't go on to my fine.
I lost my car trying to pay them.
I did a title loan on my car and lost that and trying to pay my utility bills you know and they getting shut off here and there.
I wanted to pay my fine, but I couldn't afford it, and like I said it just hurt real hard.
And I didn't even have to take.
But I had to take something until it got to the point I just got tired and I couldn't take anything anymore.
I paid them $2,000 one time when I got my income tax, and that was in February.
And then march I just didn't have anything else to give them.
That is awful.
Now the southern poverty law center eventually managed to get her out of jail after 10 days, arguing that she'd been sent to what was effectively a debtor's prison, something that was supposed to have been fucking outlawed in America in the 1830's.
But the truth is, whether through private probation or just the states, many people are being caught in the same cycle as all the people we've seen.
And let's be clear.
No one is saying that people who break the law shouldn't be punished.
This isn't about being soft on crime.
Listen to Tom Barrett's self-proclaimed conservative Republican lawyer.
If someone violates the rules of society they need to be punished.
But the punishment needs to have some if it's going to be based on a fine it has to be based on the person's ability to pay.
If they don't have the ability to pay, they can pick up trash on the streets, or they can have some community service.
I think pretty much everyone would agree with that.
Not only should municipalities not be balancing their books on the backs of some of their most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in and I'm going to use a legal term of art here the fuck barrel.
We can't have that.
And it might be time that we all stood up and said so.
I'm a hostess.
I'm a barista.
I'm a cashier.
I'm a utility inspector.
I'm a hair stylist.
I'm a janitor in cook.
We're all Americans and we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But sometimes in that pursuit we also need the right to fuck up once in a while without it completely destroying our lives.
I've jaywalked before.
All the time, actually.
I have gotten a speeding ticket.
Yeah I mean I publically urinated maybe once or twice.
Public drunkenness.
Of course, I've been drunk in public, baby I got a ticket for spitting on the floor I got a ticket for petty loitering.
I got arrested for smoking weed at a concert.
And then I met GZA from Wutang and he gave me a V.
pass back into the concert So thank you GZA.
Yes, thank you GZA.
And when we truly made a mistake We're all willing to pay a price but that price should be reasonable and private companies should not be profiting.
From someone inability to pay.
One time, I put a Popsicle on my friend's ass.
Ok, that doesn't really apply to what we are talking about here.
But thanks for sharing.
The point is this is everyone's problem, young, old, black, white.
It's not about race.
It's definitely about race.
Race definitely plays, plays into it for sure.
I highly doubt that loitering thing I got would have happened to me if I was forget about me being white.
If I was a couple of shades lighter.
Ok, you're right, it's absolutely about race as well, but it's also about basic fairness and it has to to stop because people cannot end up in the fuck barrel for the little stuff we all do.
So it's time for us all to come together and say as one shut down the fuck barrel.
Shut down the fuck barrel.
I said, shut down the fuck barrel.
Shut down the fuck barrel, please.
Yes, shut down the fuck barrel! Shut it down! That's our show.
Thank you so much.
We're off next week, so we'll see you in two weeks.
Good night!
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