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May 17, 2018

Updated accounting of America's aging prison population

In this post four years ago, I spotlighted a notable white paper from The Osborne Association titled ""The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population." Today, via this Crime Report piece, I see that a new version of this paper is available at this link.  Here is the start of the Crime Report's review of its coverage:

At least one-third of the U.S. prison population will be over 50 by 2030, according to a white paper released Thursday by the Osborne Association.

The association, a New York-based advocacy group that works with justice-involved people and their families, cited figures showing that even as states are working to reduce prison populations, the number of older adults in prison and jail is projected to grow by a “staggering 4,400 percent” in the 50-year period between 1980 and 2030—to an estimated 400,000 people.

According to statistics quoted by the researchers, adults over 50 comprised just three percent of the total incarcerated population in 1993, representing 26,300 individuals.

“Justice isn’t served by keeping elderly people locked up as their bodies and minds fail them and they grow infirm and die,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, president and CEO of the Osborne Association, which advocates for improved conditions in prisons and jails, better discharge planning, and expanded compassionate release of the elderly and infirm. “It’s both inhumane and inefficient.”

According to the report, entitled “The High Cost of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population,” extreme sentences doled out during the tough- on-crime era, as well as limited mechanisms for compassionate release, have driven what is now a costly and inhumane crisis that the corrections system is unequipped to manage.

The medical costs of caring for a burgeoning elderly population behind bars alone will add to the strains of resource-strapped corrections systems, many experts have said. According to data analyzed by the American Civil Liberties Union, it costs twice as much to incarcerate someone over 50; in some cases, it may cost up to five times more when medical costs are added.

Between 40 percent and 60 percent of prisoners over 50 have some type of mental illness or cognitive impairment, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Some prisons are setting up makeshift hospice wings and opening nursing wards for people with serious cognitive degeneration.

Elsewhere, inmates suffer from such pronounced dementia that they are unable to follow rules, and may not remember why they are incarcerated. For many with cognitive, visual, or hearing loss, a diminished capacity leads to behaviors that are mistaken for disobedience, subjecting them to punishments such as solitary confinement.

Prisons were never designed to be geriatric care facilities and this surging elder incarceration comes at a high cost,” wrote the authors of the Osborne report. At the same time, research by the Pew Center on the States shows that incarcerated people over 50 pose little public safety risk, and have the lowest recidivism rate as any other inmate demographic.

May 17, 2018 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

Comments

I often ask for the home address of pro-criminal advocates, so the released may be sent to live on their streets. I now ask for the nursing homes of their loved ones, so the criminals may sexually victimize their mute, demented grandmother in the nursing home.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 12:03:44 PM

DB: your comments continue to be crude, unnecessarily personal and unpersuasive. I've noticed the drop in comments from others now that you've returned. If your aim is to shut down debate and drive everyone away, you're succeeding. And that's sad.

Posted by: defendergirl | May 17, 2018 2:09:28 PM

DB should be deported in Communist China for good.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | May 17, 2018 3:35:46 PM

Defendergirl. You are an advocate. Rebut me. No doubt, I have much to learn from you.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 4:00:11 PM

Claudio. Unfortunately China is not just copying our capitalist methods. They are copying our over-lawyering. They went from 200 lawyers and virtually no crime, to 100,000 lawyers and a lot more crime. Imagine if they ever reached our level. It would require 1.6 million lawyers, and they would suffer massive criminality.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 4:01:54 PM

“Justice isn’t served by keeping elderly people locked up as their bodies and minds fail them and they grow infirm and die,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, president and CEO of the Osborne Association, which advocates for improved conditions in prisons and jails, better discharge planning, and expanded compassionate release of the elderly and infirm. “It’s both inhumane and inefficient.”

So being old and homeless is a better solution? I think dying in prison is rather awful to contemplate but some reformers refuse to recognize that for some people it might be the less awful alternative.

Posted by: Daniel | May 17, 2018 4:12:22 PM

Daniel. Good point. 50 years in prison. Let's kick them out, and make them learn to cope with the outside world, they have not seen in a while. Let's make them learn to use a remote control on the TV. Maybe, they can get on a dating site and fit in socially. All this on $700 a month.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 5:05:19 PM

I just looked th age distribution of Iowa prison inmates and the only way that there could be 50% older than 50 by 2030 is if there were a drastic reduction in admission of young inmates. That does not seem very likely.

Posted by: John Neff | May 17, 2018 10:42:43 PM

I visited a prison a couple months ago to see a client and noticed a number of inmates in wheelchairs. I asked the Superintendent how many prisoners he had in wheelchairs and he said 80!

Defendergirl, I agree with your comment about Behar. He is not welcome on the blog, contributes nothing of value, and deters thoughtful folks from commenting.

bruce

Posted by: bruce cunningham | May 18, 2018 8:50:06 AM

Hi, Bruce and Defendergirl. You two are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: David Behar | May 18, 2018 11:03:20 AM

"and virtually no crime" ????????
HANG HIM !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | May 18, 2018 2:19:12 PM

Claudio. China had virtually no crime before they increased the numbers of lawyers. Latin America is actually more overlawyered than the US. It has more crime. No one has looked at the correlation between the number of lawyers per capita and the crime rate. One would look for historical experiments where that number went up and down in the same location, and measuring crime accordingly. Japan has 100 million people and 20,000 lawyers. Virtually no crime. Compare to the US 400 million people, 1.5 million lawyers, and it is a jungle out here.

Posted by: David Behar | May 18, 2018 5:12:59 PM

Stupidity must become a capital crime and idiots like DB should be hanged at the nearest tree.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | May 18, 2018 5:22:34 PM

Claudio. Glad to see you change your abolitionist view. You are joining the majority of the world's peoples. It supports the death penalty.

Posted by: David Behar | May 19, 2018 12:46:47 AM

Moronism-mentecattismo shall be a capital crime and DB shall be hanged, mostly because he not even understand irony. Hang the idiot!!!! If not banish him forever.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | May 19, 2018 5:46:14 AM

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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