March 27, 2012

Assisted Living — Behind Bars

Old behind bars: the aging prison population in the United States.

"Prison is tough for everyone, but it is especially hard for older prisoners who need wheelchairs, walkers, portable oxygen and hearing aids; who cannot get dressed, go to the bathroom or bathe without help; who are incontinent, confused or suffering from chronic diseases.

Prison medical costs — borne entirely by the state — are up to nine times higher for older prisoners than for younger ones.

So what can be done? Prison officials, parole boards and governors should make an effort to increase the number of older and ill inmates posing no meaningful security risk who are released from prison and placed under community supervision.

... Those who violate the rights of others must be held accountable. Prison sentences are tailored to give offenders their just deserts at the time of sentencing.

But age and illness (not to mention evidence of rehabilitation) can change the calculus.

If elderly prisoners can be safely released from prison to finish the rest of their lives under parole supervision — at much lower cost to taxpayers — it is hard to see what society gains from keeping them behind bars."

For complete article and further information, see:
Assisted Living — Behind Bars, by Jamie Fellner (Human Rights Watch, 26 March 2012)
Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States (Human Rights Watch Report, 28 January 2012)
US: Number of Aging Prisoners Soaring, Corrections Officials Ill-Prepared to Run Geriatric Facilities (Human Rights Watch, 27 January 2012)