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February 13, 2011

Missouri prison breaking in new geriatric wing

This new piece, headlined "Aging inmates challenge Missouri prison system," concerning a new wing of a Missouri prison reports on what is becoming old problem for states dealing with old inmates.  Here are excerpts:

A prison in Missouri's capital now has a geriatric wing as state officials confront an increasingly elderly inmate population.  The "enhanced care unit" opened Jan. 1 at the Jefferson City Correctional Center....

The 36-bed unit is designed as a miniature nursing home, a place where elderly convicts in wheelchairs, strapped to oxygen tanks or struggling with dementia can be segregated from the general prison population.   Prisoners older than 50 represented 6 percent of Missouri state inmates in 1998; two decades later, that figure increased to 15 percent.

State officials plan to open similar units in five more state prisons and eventually build a separate prison hospital for elderly inmates, complete with a dementia unit and a dialysis lab.

Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff questions whether the state can afford such specialized care. "I don't think the public is really all that keen on spending hundreds of millions of dollars on running nursing homes in prison for old — dare I say — harmless guys," he said....

The rapid growth in the state's aging prison population — as well as the overall prison population — has been driven not by an uptick in crime but by state sentencing policies...

Medical and corrections officials say that due to a variety of factors — including backgrounds that often include drug and alcohol abuse, high-stress lifestyles and a chronic lack of proper medical care — prisoners tend to age more quickly than people on the outside.  That's why most state corrections agencies classify inmates as "geriatric" at age 50 or 55, the common age when inmates' health begins deteriorating.

Across the country, older inmates pose a much lower risk of recidivism than their younger counterparts, statistics show.  According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, people released from prison at age 20 or younger have a recidivism rate of 23 percent for new crimes after two years.  For those older than 70, only 3.5 percent commit new crimes. 

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February 13, 2011 at 08:47 PM | Permalink

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"For those older than 70, only 3.5 percent commit new crimes."

Excuse me. This is ridiculous. These prisoners continue to do whatever they were doing their entire lives, such as grabbing the grandkids where they shouldn't. It is taken less seriously, and their frailty deters reporting, investigations, arrests, prosecutions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 13, 2011 9:41:38 PM

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