« Greek priest helps poor inmates buy their way out of Greek prisons | Main | "May the government try John Hinckley for James Brady’s murder?" »

August 8, 2014

"The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population"

LogoThe title of this post is the title of this notable white paper from The Osborne Association that I found via this post from The Crime Report.  Here is the report's executive summary

For the past four decades, we have witnessed the most sustained and widespread imprisonment binge known throughout recorded human history. The facts are all too familiar: the United States has roughly 5 percent of the world’s population, yet is responsible for 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.  With an estimated 2.3 million adults in jail or prison and 1 out of every 32 adults under correctional or community supervision, the U.S. surpasses all other countries in sheer numbers and per capita incarceration rates.

The immense costs of incarceration have increasingly framed the conversation around reducing the prison population as a matter of fiscal responsibility and budgetary necessity. This discussion is often centered around reducing the arrest and prosecution of so-called “non-violent drug offenders.”  But these issues belie a much more pressing human and economic concern: the aging prison population, whose costs for incarceration and care will soon prove unsustainable if meaningful action is not taken. And though prison is expensive, cost is far from the only justification to move away from our reliance on incarceration, as the continued long-term incarceration of aging citizens has serious moral, ethical, public health, and public safety implications.

This paper aims to provide a brief contextual framework of the issues affecting elders in prison; to illuminate the ongoing efforts being undertaken to improve conditions within correctional facilities, increase mechanisms for release, and develop robust post-release services specifically targeting the unique needs of the aging population in reentry; and to sketch out preliminary recommendations to serve as a basis for further work to be done throughout several key sectors.

Despite their apparent interrelated interests in the aging prison population, the fields of gerontology, medical and mental health, philanthropy, and corrections have only sporadically interacted around this issue, and never as a unified voice.  Thus, a primary objective of this work is to encourage multi-sector dialogue, cross-pollination of ideas, and a shared foundational knowledge that will strengthen the connections among these fields and form a basis for unifying action.

We believe such a partnership will be well equipped to identify and engage in appropriate measures that will immediately impact the aging prison population, while also developing and implementing the necessary socio-structural architecture to effectively address long-term mechanisms of diversion, release, and reentry.

Austerity-driven approaches to shrinking budgets and increasing public discomfort with mass incarceration create an opportunity to seriously address the epidemic of America’s graying prison population and to imbue our criminal justice system with values and policies that are humane, cost-effective, and socially responsible.

August 8, 2014 at 02:38 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population":


My argument is to focus on what's morally right, a non-violent drug criminal should not get a higher sentence than an arsonist or other violent criminal, a person urinating in the bushes or sexting as a teenager should not be subject to decades long registration, fees,forced to carry a driver's license that says "sex offender", prosecuted because he is a male teenager under 18 at 17 vs. a girl who is also a teen at 15, residency restrictions, employment,petition of relatives,etc COMPARED to a ms-13 gang member who violently attacks folks with baseball bats, saws,etc.

Cost should be a factor as we don't have unlimited resources, but should not be the focus, after all we could put aging inmates to death which would be cheaper if it weren't for the appeals and habeus corpus proceedings which are unfair because they are often unavailable to LWOP inmates.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 9, 2014 6:58:48 AM

On the short list of High Cost of Low Risk defendants , has to be the continued incarceration }1946→1987{ after Rudolph Hess evolved to nearly zero risk •

“The rotating American, British, French, or Soviet officer and 37 soldiers under the officer's command guard Hess alone -- and the four dozen cleaning women, the cook, doctor, pastor, and other German staff members serve Hess alone, at an annual cost of $670,000 to West German taxpayers.”

In Spandau prison, Rudolph Hess leads a Spartan life
By Elizabeth Pond, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor June 17, 1985

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady in Columbus, Ohio | Aug 9, 2014 10:17:49 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB