Prison Health Care: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Transcript

John Oliver discusses the health care offered in prisons and jails, who provides it, why it’s so bad, and what Red Bull’s slogan should be.
Prison Health Care: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 10 Episode 11
Aired on October 1, 2023

Main segment: Health Care in U.S. Prisons
Other segments: A recap of events from the previous 5 months

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[Cheers and applause]

John: Welcome, welcome, welcome to “Last Week Tonight!” I’m John Oliver, thank you so much for joining us, and normally, this is where we’d do a quick recap of the week. But, as you may have noticed, we’ve been off air for the last five months due to the writers strike — which I’m very happy to say is over, and even happier to say was successful. So instead of recapping the last week, we’re going to start by recapping everything that’s happened in the last five months — which has been a lot. And we’ll begin in the U.S. Senate with this:

I got a new strap — strap-on harness today. I can’t wait to put it on you. It will fit my favorite dildo perfectly. You’re going to looko hot. I can’t wait to have your cock in my mouth. I’m going to give you the blowjob of your life then I want you inside of me.

John: Look. I know you may have been wondering, “what’re they going to talk about when they come back? What is so important it has to be the first thing they bring up?” Well, it’s this. Since the moment the phrase “strap-on harness” careened out of senator Foghorn Leghorn‘s mouth, it was always this. And sure, he stumbles on “strap-on,” but he glides beautifully through doesn’t falter for a second on “cock in my mouth,” then sticks the landing on “blowjob of your life” while punctuating it with a perfect look down his glasses. It’s a truly sublime 25 seconds, and if we didn’t have so much to catch up on tonight, I would play it on repeat for the rest of the show. But clearly, a lot more happened in the world of politics. The supreme court effectively banned affirmative action. Trump was indicted multiple times, one of which gave us this mug shot in which he looks like he’s struggling to find Waldo on a crowded ski slope. And Lauren Boebert was kicked out of a musical for inappropriate behavior. And while I would love to joke about that, I don’t want to get bogged down in it. After all, she was kicked out of the show. That is probably punishment enough. So instead we’re going to move on to Italy, where economic problems have put real pressure on prime minister Giorgia Meloni‘s upcoming budget — although, you know what? Just briefly, the inappropriate behavior that Boebert engaged in apparently involved her being loud and refusing to stop vaping around a pregnant woman. Also there was some fondling and light over-the-pants hand stuff which was caught on video. But again, I don’t want to get into that too much, because in Italy, markets are dubious that Meloni will be able to — it was “Beetlejuice,” by the way. That was the musical Lauren Boebert was watching. It was a touring production of “Beetlejuice the Musical.” I just need you to know that. I’m not saying it’d be appropriate to engage in high school freshman-era hand stuff during a production of any musical, but I just wanted to be absolutely clear that this wasn’t one of the more explicitly sexual ones like “Spring Awakening” or “Rocky Horror” or “Cats” this was “Beetlejuice,” a show that’s quite loudly about death. I’m just saying, if you’re going to get your nipples tweaked and your pipe squeaked, you save that shit for “fiddler” like a goddamn adult. But again, it’s an old story, it’s been resolved, and it fundamentally doesn’t matter. What matters is, in Italy, economic growth rates are causing some significant — sorry, there is just one more thing about Lauren Boebert. Reports say that after receiving a warning at intermission, the final complaint that led to her being kicked out came five minutes into act II. Now, if you don’t know the show, that puts us comfortably into “That Beautiful Sound,” a song where Beetlejuice and Lidia gleefully torture a series of visitors including a girl scout, a pizza delivery person, and one of their neighbors. It’s a song about how they like the sound of tortured screams. Is it the least sexy thing person can sit through? No. That would be this but it is up there. Anyway, as she was being escorted out of the theater, she apparent said “do you know who I am?” And “I will be contacting the mayor.” Which are two just catastrophically bad decisions. If you’ve been caught for, again, sexual activity during “Beetlejuice the Musical,” you’d hope no one knew who you were and you definitely wouldn’t want to immediately get on the phone with the mayor to tell him what had just happened. And the thing is, sadly, this incident has now derailed me so much, I don’t even have time to talk about Italy’s economic struggles anymore, so — much like Lauren Boebert and the musical “Beetlejuice” — you’ll never get to know how it all turns out. Instead, we need to catch up on what happened in New Jersey, whose democratic senator Bob Menendez was indicted on corruption charges for accepting bribes to aid local businessmen and benefit the Egyptian government. And while he has denied those charges, some of the details look pretty bad.

The indictment alleges Menendez and his wife received nearly a half million dollars in cash and $150,000 worth of gold bars. Prosecutors also say that the day after the two returned from a trip to Egypt, Menendez searched online, “how much is one kilo of gold worth?”

John: Yeah, not great, Bob! That is pretty incriminating. No one casually googles “how much is one kilo of gold worth?” Because they’re bored. They google, “do butterflies feel pain when they flap their wings?” “Just how little love can a person live on?” And “what exactly is a Travis Kelce?” “How much is one kilo of gold worth?” Is an inherently incriminating Google search, it’s right up there with “can you snort adderall” or “how to get bloodstains out of your wife.” And it’s not just Menendez who’s been in legal jeopardy — pillow baron Mike Lindell continues to face lawsuits stemming from the false claims he promoted about voting machines, and a few weeks ago, a deposition from one of those cases came out, featuring this spectacular moment, as he discussed what sort of customer service calls his company gets.

Okay. And I’m not asking about the lumpy pillow calls.

No, they’re not lumpy pillows. That’s not what they call on. Okay. When you say lumpy pillows, now you’re an asshole, you got that, you’re an asshole is what you are.

Mike, Mike.

No, he’s an asshole. He’s an ambulance-chasing asshole. That’s what you are. Lumpy pillows? Kiss my ass.

John: You know, my favorite thing about Mike Lindell is that he’s the rare example of how recovering from a crack addiction can actively make you worse. Although, for the record, Mike, if they are not lumpy pillows, how do you explain this Amazon listing for your product, featuring a very real exchange in which one customer asks “should it be this lumpy and flat? I just got it.” And another replies “mine was/is lumpy.” Or this review titled, “it is a bag o’ lumps.” Or this one titled “lumpy,” with we also missed a bunch of international news, like the coronation of King Charles, the world’s oldest boy, during which he said “I come not to be served, but to serve.” Although he clearly didn’t mean that in the sense of “serving looks,” given that this is his official coronation portrait, in which he seems to be aiming for “successful pimp” but ends up looking like someone wearing a set of tacky drapes over a Lakers jersey.
Also, Turkey had an election, which Erdogan narrowly won.
And, for about a day and a half, it seemed like there genuinely might be a coup in Russia, which ended with its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, accepting a weird deal brokered by the Belarussian president, and then dying in the most predictable plane crash of all time.
And on top of all of that, China was shaken to the core by this controversy:

It’s bizarre video of a species known as a sun bear that’s leading everyone to ask, “is that really a bear or just a guy in a bear suit?” The creature, named “Angela,” stands upright just like a human, and are those wrinkles? It sure gives the impression that it’s a dude in an ill-fitting bear costume. And just look at the way she waves. Now Chinese zoo authorities are settling the mystery, declaring, “Angela is definitely not a human.”

John: Hey! Hey! Everyone! Leave Angela alone! Stop talking about her awkward wave and wrinkly bottom. And I’ll tell you why I’m so personally invested in this — some of us never get to see our exact body type on screen, and finally I get why representation matters. And speaking of representations of me specifically, back in June, after Reddit announced a new policy to charge third-party apps for accessing its data, many of its members engaged in a striking protest.

Some of the biggest forums on Reddit are being flooded with photos of comedian John Oliver. This is all taking place over a protest to changes on how the website is being run. Two of the most popular so-called subreddits have decided to post nothing but photos of Oliver.

John: It’s true. For weeks, images of me were used as a form of protest on some of the most popular subreddits. And to their credit, they used some pretty good ones, like this one of me as a Muppet, this one of me as a blobfish, this one of me appearing in a piece of toast, and my personal favorite, this one labeled “John Oliver Wick,” which is a pretty good way of showing you exactly what it would look like if professor Snape ever committed armed robbery. It was a pretty inspiring act of malicious compliance, but just watch as trying to explain it seemed to break the brains of that local news team.

I don’t know what this — so are they for John Oliver?

I actually —

…or against him?

I — I think this is just part of their-their protest.

So we’re going to put up something that’s boring, that nobody’s going to care about.


Is that right?

Well, this says — moderators of a certain subreddit say that they’re only allowing users to post pictures of John Oliver “looking sexy.” And in fact — [laughs] any picture of the comedian was allowed because John Oliver is always sexy. So you’re saying boring — according to the Reddit users, they’re doing it ’cause he’s sexy. I don’t know! This is according to this article.

John: Okay, putting my feelings aside — which they certainly did there — why does it seem like everyone on that show is completely unprepared? This guy is confused by the story entirely, and she’s googling it live on air. It looks like they’re hosting an improv show where the audience gave them the words “Reddit,” “sexy,” and “John Oliver,” and they had to build a scene around that. Oh, you know what other major pop culture news we missed? Barbenheimer! It was one of the biggest movie events of the summer, alongside Sound of Freedom, the feel-good child sex trafficking hit we’d all been waiting for. Although I’d argue, if you’re looking for the single-best movie of the summer, it’s gotta be “Cop Slide“:

It almost hurts to watch. A police officer is taking a quick break, heading down a popular slide. Ouch! It’s like he’s shot out of a cannon. He hits the ground hard.

John: Yeah. Yeah, he does hit the ground hard. And it’s absolutely incredible. From the sound of him thundering down the slide, to his cop toys flying. It’s cinema at its finest. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last time that I say this, but “I wish cops turned on their body cams more.” Because I’d love to have seen that from inside the slide as well. “Cop Slide” took the internet by storm, inspiring memes and remixes, my favorite of which was this:

♪ pain still grows ♪
♪ it’s no stranger to you and me ♪ [attling]
♪ I can feel it coming in the air tonight ♪

John: Come on! Eat your heart out, “Miami Vice.” That is now the all-time greatest use of that song. The video went so viral, “Boston cop slide” is now listed on Google maps. And because it’s in Boston, it’s of course down the street from a dunkin’, and across the plaza from another dunkin’, which is next to another dunkin’, which is across the street from another fucking dunkin’. There are four dunkin’s within a one-block radius of cop slide. And if you expand it a few blocks, there are 13 of them. Boston, you truly are a self-parody. The point is, we missed so many stories. I haven’t even brought up the titan submersib! Yeah, we missed that too! That was a weird few days, wasn’t it? Also, there was a batshit raid on a newspaper in Kansas, wildfires in Maui, and a spectacular brawl at a dock in Montgomery where some drunken white assholes got their asses and a folding chair handed to them. We missed so much it would take a whole new version of Billy Joel‘s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to cover it. Which reminds of something else we missed: fallout boy released a new version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that absolutely nobody asked for, covering the last 34 years. And if you’re wondering, “hold on, hold on, 2001 was in the last 34 years. They didn’t bring up that thing, did they?” Well, the answer is, yes, they very much did.

♪ Mars rover, “avatar,” self-driving electric cars ♪
♪ ssris, prince and the queen die ♪
♪ world trade, second plane ♪
♪ what else do I have to say? ♪

John: What else do you have to say? Nothing, fallout boy! No one’s making you do this. Honestly, I don’t know who should be more pissed off about that verse — Prince, James Cameron, or the first plane. And for what it’s worth, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is the last song anyone should cover from Billy Joel’s discography. Even in its original form, it’s the musical equivalent of a child telling you everything he learned about at school that day. Slow down, but also, I don’t care. And before any billy joel fans start getting angry with me, the man himself thinks the song is terrible. Here he is shit-talking it in front of his own audience.

It’s the same thing verse after verse. Just the words change. ♪ Na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na ♪ one of the worst melodies I ever wrote.

John: Exactly. I didn’t think I’d ever say this sentence out loud and mean it, but listen to Billy Joel, fallout boy, he’s got a good point. And look, I’d have loved to have covered all of these stories back when they originally happened. I wish so much I could have told you these jokes at the time. But I couldn’t, because our writers — the people who wrote those jokes — were forced to strike for a fair contract for the last five NTHS. And it was an immensely difficult time, not just for them, but for everyone else working on this show and many others who could no longer do their jobs. And to be clear, this strike happened for good reasons. Our industry has seen its workers severely squeezed in recent years. You’ve probably seen stories about writers and actors, whose work you may even recognize, routinely not making enough to qualify for health insurance or afford basic needs. So the writers’ guild went on strike, and thankfully won, but it took a lot of sacrifices from a lot of people to achieve that. And while I’m happy that they eventually got a fair deal, and immensely proud of what our union accomplished, I’m also furious that it took the studios 148 days to achieve a deal they could’ve offered on day fucking one. But hopefully, this may encourage others — from autoworkers to Starbucks baristas to health care providers — whether they’re in unions or would like to be — to find power in each other. And within our particular industry, I really hope the actors’ union and IATSE, which represents crews, will be able take what the writers achieved and leverage it to win fair contracts for themselves too. Because the truth is, it takes many people, working really hard, to make film and tv, all of whom deserve a piece of the pie. And for the actors in particular, they cannot come back to work soon enough. Especially because we’ve now all seen what happens when non-professionals are trusted with the written word.

I can’t wait to have your cock in my mouth. I’m going to give you the blowjob of your life then I want you inside of me.

John: Exactly. And now this.

Announcer: and now, local news is very excited about what week it is.

The national park service has announced the return of “fat bear week.”

That’s a real thing.

It is back, everybody. The contest for the fattest bear is here.

It is a contest for chubby chunkers hoping to advance to the main fat bear week.

Which is the fattest bear out there?

Mm, chubby.

Who has been eating the most fishies?

Fat bear week.


Look at that guy.

Look at those chunks, big chunky bears, biggie smalls is the illest, look at them.

They ate 20 boxes of doughnut holes and six packages of doughnuts.

Getting ready for fat bear week.

It is fat bear week.

I wonder how the bears feel about being called fat?

I have a history of picking the bear that usually wins. We’ve got a tradition here, we like to pick.

Pick one out. Well, police in Michigan helped save an 8-year-old boy after he was electrocuted.

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John: Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns health care. The thing that “ER” was originally about before, in later seasons, it really became more about scenes like this:


John: Wow. Obviously a lot going on there. Not least of which, if you’re not familiar with the “ER”-niverse, this guy was already living with one arm because he lost the other — and this is true — in a different helicopter accident. And you know what they say, hit me with a helicopter once, shame on you. Hit me with a helicopter twice, you must be in some late-stage post-Clooney “ER” seasons. Specifically, tonight’s story is about the healthcare currently offered in jails and prisons. That’s right, after five long months, we’re welcoming you back with a story about prisoner healthcare, because deep down, this is who we are. And I know that, for some, the very concept of incarcerated people getting medical care is somehow offensive — as you can tell from the fact that, for years, the subject’s been framed on tv like this:

Spokane county taxpayers are paying the bill for alleged killers, rapists, and child molesters to see doctors, dentists, and specialists.

Have you ever seen a meth user’s teeth? It’s called “meth mouth” and it’s awful.

Koat anchor Todd Kurtz shows you how all of that decay is costing you money as jails and prisons are forced to fix those teeth.

There is a place where we are all guaranteed health care by law — it’s called jail.

And criminals know their way around the system and look for chances to get treatment on the taxpayer’s dime.

John: Okay, it is just wild to point out that the only place Americans are guaranteed healthcare is jail and somehow make it seem like the problem is prisoners and not our deeply broken system. You can get free dental is jail. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Exactly. Fuck that guy and his teeth!” And putting aside the fact that not everyone who’s incarcerated is even guilty, it’s worth pointing out that, according to a recent study, 100% of prisoners are actually people — I mean like “human beings” people, like the kind you are. They have hopes and souls and farts and brains. And if that isn’t enough, you should know the constitution requires that we provide adequate healthcare to anyone behind bars. In 1976, the supreme court ruled that denying medical treatment to prisoners constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the eighth amendment. Yet despite all of that, the quality of care prisoners receive is abysmal. Investigations in state after state have found it to be woefully deficient. And a lawsuit against Arizona a week back made some horrifying allegations.

It alleges that prisoners are at “substantial risk of pain, amputation, disfigurement, and death.” It cites examples of prisoners being told to pray to be cured or drink energy shakes to treat cancer symptoms.

John: Okay, that is both terrible advice and also not even close to being true. If energy drinks could treat cancer symptoms, you would have heard about it. Red bull would mention it in all of their ads instead of their current marketing copy, which is, “red bull, there’s nothing we can do about the taste, but let’s be honest: you’re 22 and hungover and just need something to get you through your shift at red lobster and you’re still a few years away from having cocaine money, so just shut up and put this poison in you.” And the thing is, the consequences of poor care are only going to get more dire, given our rapidly aging prison population. From 1999 to 2015, the number of people 55 or older in prison increased by 264%. And why are we confining so many elderly people in prisons when we should clearly be putting them where they belong: on “the golden bachelor,” taking full advantage of menopause and fucking raw. I presume that’s what’s so given all this, tonight, let’s take a look at prison healthcare — who provides it, why it’s so bad, and how we can improve it going forward. And let’s start with the fact that, at one point, states themselves provided medical care for their jails and prisons. Some still do, in fact — and in most places, it’s generally been pretty bad. That “treat cancer with prayer and energy drinks” story is from when Arizona ran its own prison healthcare. But increasingly, states have started contracting care out to private companies. As of 2018, more than half of all U.S. states hire private companies to provide at least some of their prison healthcare. And when it comes to our largest jails, that number is more than 60%, all of which explains why this is now a roughly $4 billion industry. And the sell companies make is that they can tailor care to the particular needs of the incarcerated — a population that can have high rates of substance abuse and mental illness, both of which do pose special challenges. Just listen to this promo for advanced correctional healthcare, which serves facilities in 21 states, as it makes a very big promise.

The purpose of advanced correctional healthcare is to solve problems for our patients and clients and make their lives easier. In fact, our data indicates your detainees will be healthier in your jail than they are when they go to their own doctors.

John: Well, that definitely doesn’t immediately seem like bullshit, does it? From the fact she’s citing “our data” to the fact that, when you’re googling for “best doctors near me,” the top result is very rarely “have you tried your local jail?” And unsurprisingly, the rosy picture that promo paints doesn’t remotely live up to reality. Take this story from a Wisconsin jail that used that company’s services.

Six months ago, 39-year-old Dante Wilson was in a Wisconsin jail for a child support violation. He complained of chest pains. The jail nurse concluded he had heartburn and gave him two tums. Less than an hour later, Wilson asked for help. Again, “relax” was the nurse’s advice. Soon after, Wilson died of a heart attack. Later…

[Bleep] Happens.

The nurse was fired.

John: Good! She should’ve been! Because that is the single worst thing you can possibly say in response to someone dying of a heart attack because you screwed up. And while I’m sure she was upset at losing her job, if I share a quote that it seems there’s simply no bad time for, “shit fucking happens.” And at this point, you will not be surprised to learn that in internal trainings, advanced correctional healthcare seemed to spend an unnerving amount of time teaching its employees what constitutes the legal bare minimum of care. That rough draft Jennifer Garner wax figure once conducted a video seminar for staff titled “a jail is not a health spa.” And just watch her explain the importance of avoiding “deliberate indifference” — basically, not blatantly neglecting to treat prisoners — by using the weirdest possible example.

So, how do we define “deliberate indifference” now? You must know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Something which would cause the unnecessary and wanton or malicious infliction of pain. A few years back, there was an nba player who was arrested for shooting a gun into the air five times outside of a strip club. That is criminal recklessness. That is consciously disregarding a substantial risk of harm. A stray bullet could have hit a stripper.

John: Okay. That is definitely an example. Although, to be honest, it only really makes sense if she explains every legal concept like that. Abduction? A stripper gets kidnapped. Bankruptcy? A stripper stops stripping. Escrow? A stripper buys a house but enlists a third party to temporarily hold assets until the deal is finalized. Now, you should know, that woman was the company’s senior counsel. And I’m happy to announce that she is no longer in that role. But that’s only because she’s now the president of the whole motherfucking company, y’all! [Gunshots] whoo! But the problem isn’t just with this one company. It’s with the whole industry. A review of 500 jails found those relying on the five leading contractors had higher death rates than facilities run by the government. And one of the key reasons companies so often deliver substandard care is that they’re actively incentivized to due to how they’re paid.

It’s basically a fixed dollar amount contract. It’s 16 dollars and change per prisoner, and the contract assumes 34,000 prisoners. So it’s basically, this is how much we’re giving you. And the more money you spend on providing healthcare, the less profit you make.

John: Right. And that is a pretty obvious incentive to cut corners. If you give your babysitter $100 and say “whatever you don’t spend on dinner you can keep,” don’t be surprised if you come home to a very happy babysitter and a bunch of pissed-off kids eating top ramen. And that profit motive has led to some pretty outrageous policies. A recent court case against Wexford, one of the country’s largest prisoner healthcare providers, revealed that for years it had had a de facto “one good eye” policy, as when a 69-year-old prisoner got cataracts in both eyes and wanted them fixed, the prison doctor told her that she’d have to make a choice. Which eye did she want fixed, the right one or the left one? Which is clearly an impossible question. It’s like someone asking which property brother you’d like to kill. The only acceptable response to either question is, “both. Why are you making me choose?” But to show just how dangerous these companies can be, let’s just look at one state, Arizona. Back in 2009, it announced a plan to switch from state care to private providers. And the initial pitch was that this would be a cost-saving measure. But as this woman explains, something interesting happened fairly early on.

They put out a request for proposals, an rfp, and nobody bid for it because nobody could do it for less than what the state was spending, because the state wasn’t spending very much as it is. A couple years later, the legislature came back and said, “uh, we’re gonna amend that prior law. Remember where we said it has to be less? It’s okay. It can cost more.”

John: Ooh, it can, can it? So you demanded a competitive bid, and when no one responded, you rolled over and gave up absolutely everything. It’s a shrewd tactic from the famous book on negotiating, “this is where I’m softest and other business ideas by a timid puppy.” But since then, it has been a nightmare, as Arizona has cycled through contractors. They started with Wexford, the “one good eye” people. But as things didn’t improve, less than a year later, they switched to a company called Corizon. But almost immediately, heinous stories started emerging about the care they were providing too, including one we’ve actually shown you before, about a woman who gave birth behind bars and whose c-section wound had not fully healed. And I’ll let her mother pick up the story from there.

They decided she had been there long enough that she could go back to her yard. But it was still open a little bit. And so they decided that, um, the best thing to do for this would be to pack it with kitchen sugar.


Sugar. And, we’re talking sugar that you get from — ’cause they donate it, from McDonald’s, from Burger King. You know, they’re standing there ripping open these little packs of sugar and filling that wound. Packing it in with what’s left, and —

With sugar from a fast food restaurant.


John: Okay. Let me be clear: I’m not a doctor — although if you put me in a lab coat, I do think I could get away with it for two to six weeks. I have an accent and know how to say “subdural hematoma” — I’m basically halfway there already. But if I had to pick the worst possible thing for a person recovering from the trauma of childbirth, it’d probably be injecting McDonald’s sugar straight into your bloodstream. And the state lawmaker who spearheaded the move to take Arizona’s prison healthcare private, John Kavanagh, didn’t display a great deal of empathy when confronted with that story.

That sounds ridiculous. You know, prisoners have, you know, 24/7 to think up allegations and write letters. I’m not saying that some of them can’t have a basis in fact, but you gotta take them with a grain of salt, or in the case of the hospital, maybe a grain of sugar.

John: Oh, I get it! A joke! Prison Geppetto here is having some fun with words. And I’m sure that prisoner’s sides were splitting. Less from laughter, though, and more from the open wounds that, thanks to him, she’d had filled with fucking sugar. And that’s just one of many stories of Corizon providing abysmal care, seemingly in order to cut costs. Not only were they repeatedly accused of refusing to pay specialists, causing hospitals to have to send emails like this one, in which they literally beg for payment. But when a Corizon doctor was dealing with a prisoner who’d had multiple seizures and suggested sending him out for an exam, she was told that was not going to happen, but that they’d “order a helmet for him to protect his head instead.” And while it is clearly not the most important thing, we tracked that doctor down to ask if they ever got that helmet for him, and you’ll never guess what the answer was, unless your guess is “no,” in which case, you’re absolutely fucking right. And all of this led to horrific consequences, like this man, who had just ten months left on his sentence for vehicle theft when he complained of back pain. Four months later, he finally got x-rays done which showed signs of cancer — but even then, Corizon dragged its feet.

They wouldn’t do an mri. They kept denying an mri, denying an mri.

In may, ct scans were ordered to see if Vocke had cancer, but Corizon denied it. Finally, at the end of July 2013, a ct scan was performed. It confirmed Vocke had cancer. Medical records show there was a lengthy delay in treating Vocke.

And it was kidney cancer that could have been 95% survivable. And now they’re saying that I can’t survive it whatsoever.

Vocke was granted medical parole so he can die surrounded by family.

John: That is a tragedy. Just ten months left on his sentence, showing clear signs of cancer, and nothing was done. And again, he was in there for vehicle theft. The punishment for that is clearly not death, but under a system this cruel, it can turn out to be. And this was all part of a consistent pattern. The state’s own records showed that Corizon had delayed delivery of medical care 16,000 times in just one eight-month period. It got so bad, arizona was actually forced to pay fines for the substandard care prisoners received even as, mystifyingly, it continued to pay more than $2.5 million in performance bonuses to Corizon’s executives. But eventually enough was enough, and the state got rid of Corizon. The company — fun fact — has since declared bankruptcy, but rebranded as “Yescare,” which is a bold name choice for that company. It’s like Applebees calling itself “won’t make you poop weird!” To put it mildly, your name is a little misleading. Anyway, Arizona replaced Corizon with a company called centurion. But the situation still didn’t improve. In fact, last June, a judge ruled that for years, across multiple providers, the state had shown “the most callous and inhumane indifference,” saying “no legitimate humane system would operate in this manner.” Now, since that ruling, the state’s contracted out to yet another new provider, this one called Naphcare, which itself is fighting accusations of forcibly inducing pregnant prisoners into labor against their will. And that’s the thing — in so many places, states end up just rotating among a small handful of awful providers. Prisons in Florida went from Corizon, to Wexford, to Centurion. Alabama went from Corizon to Wexford, to Yescare, which, you’ll remember, is basically just Corizon rebranded. So states choose healthcare providers like old married couples choose sexual positions: by cycling through an extremely limited number of options, none of which really get the job done in a satisfying way. And the options can be so limited that, even when public officials do try to do the right thing and demand action, they can often find themselves stuck. Take what happened in Forsyth county, North Carolina. It had a contract with a company called correct care solutions to provide care in its jail. But after a series of calamities, including two men dying in the space of just 24 days, this county commissioner decided to vote against renewing their contract, and did so like this:

I can’t vote to support correct care for any contract. You know, I don’t care about three million, three years, or whatever. I wouldn’t give correct — correct care solutions $3,000 for three days if I had my way. So I can’t support it.

John: That’s a pretty strong “no” from that man. And as completely justifiable as his reluctance to renew correct care’s contract was, as the county’s deputy sheriff pointed out, there was a bit of a problem.

The only thing I will say, sir, is, with regard to this, this was — correct care was the only vendor that bid.

John: It’s true. There was no other option. So the whole vote was basically ceremonial. It’d be just as effective to hold a vote on the question “should it be summer now?” Yes? Yes? Everyone votes yes? Well, bad news, everyone, it still isn’t. And when you put all this together, it’s hard to escape two conclusions: that all the options currently on the table are bad and that the reason they’re allowed to be so bad is because of who this care is for. And I get it can be difficult for some to care about issues affecting prisoners. And I also get their health care may be especially difficult to rally around, as so many on the outside don’t have health care themselves. I know all of this. But the fact remains: prisoners are people. 100% Of them are, in fact. And there are some solutions here. I’d argue the bare minimum we should do is to stop outsourcing prison healthcare to private companies. As the director of the national prison project at the ACLU puts it, “government-run prison health care is often appallingly deficient, but at least when a government is providing the service, there is some measure of oversight.” And it should say something about just how bad things are that what activists are pushing for here is the “appallingly deficient” option. And look, obviously, the problem is so much bigger than just shitty contractors. If the issue is that prisons are overwhelmed with too many patients to take care of, maybe there should be fewer people in there. If it’s that the prison population is getting older because of the incredibly long sentences we’ve imposed upon people, maybe we should consider releasing them. If it’s that too many of them are dealing with addiction and mental health problems, maybe we should be examining whether prison is the best place to treat those conditions. Because the thing is, it’s impossible to separate this issue from the much larger conversations about universal healthcare and prison abolition. Like so many stories that we cover, this one ends at the perpetual elephants in the room, that the u.s. Doesn’t guarantee any of its citizens the dignity of good healthcare, and puts too many of its people in cages — cages where many will needlessly die. And you can take that with all the grains of sugar in the world, but it should still be absolutely impossible to swallow. And now this.

* * *

Announcer: and now, fall is here and so is something else.

A big milestone for a favorite fall drink that helped start a yearly trend. The Starbucks pumpkin spice latte is now 20 years old.

20 Years! But an instant in the billion-year burning!

Speaking of delicious, the love and appreciation of the public space is at an all-time high. As we drink and eat everything pumpkin, the question is being raised, are Americans addicted?

Yes! We are addicted! We are powerless worms! Desire for your whimsical fall flavors!

Had a pumpkin spice latte yesterday.

No, you didn’t.

I had to.

You have to! We are mere puppets against the proprietary blend of spices so powerful.

I had a psl phase.


But then I psled out.


Maybe, like, one a season. Not all the time.

Yes! All the time! The blood of the pumpkin.

35%, According to morning consults, say they want pumpkin spice all year.

That’s not true.

It is true, Fred! The thirst for spice will not be denied, even by the host of the nation’s second most popular morning show!

Despite the drink’s massive success following its release, the company considered discontinuing the drink at one point to keep things new, fresh, and not repetitive.

No! It can never be stopped! Echo into eternity! More, more, more, more! [Screams] more!

John: That is our show, thanks so much for watching. It is so, so good to be back. We’ll see you next week. Good night.

[Cheers and applause]

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪


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