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April 6, 2010

"Aging Prisoners, Increasing Costs, and Geriatric Release"

The title of this post is the subtitle of this terrific and timely new publication from the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institue of Justice. Here is how the Center summarizes the piece (which is authored by Tina Chui):

Correctional facilities throughout the United States are home to a growing number of older adults with extensive, costly medical needs. This report examines statutes related to the early release of geriatric inmates in 15 states and the District of Columbia and concludes that these provisions are rarely used, despite the potential of reduced costs at minimal risk to public safety. The author identifies factors that help explain the discrepancy and provides recommendations for addressing it.

Here is part of the piece's executive summary:

This report is based upon a statutory review of geriatric release provisions, including some medical release practices that specifically refer to elderly inmates. The review was supplemented by interviews and examination of data in publicly available documents.

At the end of 2009, 15 states and the District of Columbia had provisions for geriatric release. However, the jurisdictions are rarely using these provisions. Four factors help explain the difference between the stated intent and the actual impact of geriatric release laws: political considerations and public opinion; narrow eligibility criteria; procedures that discourage inmates from applying for release; and complicated and lengthy referral and review processes.

This report offers recommendations for responding to the disparities between geriatric release policies and practice, including the following:

  • States that look to geriatric release as a cost-saving measure must examine how they put policy into practice. For instance, they should review the release process to address potential and existing obstacles.
  • More analysis is needed to accurately estimate overall cost savings to taxpayers—and not just costs shifted from departments of corrections to other agencies. 
  • More effective monitoring, reporting, and evaluation mechanisms can improve assessments of the policies’ impact. 
  • Creative strategies allowing older individuals to complete their sentences in the community should be piloted and evaluated.
  • Finally, to protect public safety, states should consider developing relevant risk- and needs-assessment instruments, as well as reentry programs and supervision plans, for elderly people who are released from prison.

April 6, 2010 at 06:08 PM | Permalink

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Posted by: sophiyabush | Apr 7, 2010 1:42:04 AM

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