Aging in Prison By: Quinton Riter
When an individual commits a particularly heinous crime, they are usually ordered to a lengthy sentence which strips the person of many, if not all, of their precious adult years. For many free citizens, this seems to be the end of problem. The solution has been set in place; the individuals are out of the vulnerable public and locked away to serve their determined sentence. However, with many of the baby boomer individuals maturing into their golden years, they are beginning to require extra care which the prison systems are struggling to accommodate. The present prison facilities were never designed to house such old and frail individuals. The daily regimen was not centered around the elderly individuals and their aging bodies. Studies show that the prison lifestyle “accelerates the aging process by an average of 11.5 years.” Since these maturing individuals are more susceptible to disease and ailment, “older prisoners incur medical costs that are three to nine times as high as those for younger prisoners.” With issues of human suffering coming into play, actions must be taken in order to solve the injustices. Clearly, debilitating ailments plague these individuals physically, emotionally, and psychologically through their years of segregation outside of normal society and health care. Thus, questions are being raised such as; what is happening to these older individuals? What needs to be done? And whether or not they deserve altered treatment in order to sufficiently meet their needs as a human being and to keep them from further suffering?
Many new adjustments to the American prison system over the last 30 years have greatly altered the amount of individuals who are currently serving time in prison. These reasons include the implementation of “laws that increased the likelihood and length of prison sentences, including by establishing mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes laws, and by increasing the number of crimes punished with life and life without- parole sentences. In addition… the legislators sought to increase the amount of time prisoners would serve in prison before release, for example by establishing truth-in-sentencing conditions that require 85 percent or more of a prison sentence be served before the inmate becomes eligible for release, and by making some crimes ineligible for parole.” The preceding reasons explain not only why the amount of prisoners in general has grew so greatly since 1980 but also why there is such a large influx of the elderly in prison. All of these new strict policies plague the aging and dying individuals to be stuck with their sentences regardless of how close they are to death. Do these individuals deserve this? Now, one may consider that with an influx of prisoners in total, the elderly inmates would be proportional to the younger inmates. This, however, is completely false. The rate of elderly prisoners from 1995 to 2010 has been “growing by 282 percent compared to a 42.1 percent increase in the prison population.” This extreme statistic shows how this problem will not soon diminish on its own. Without action soon, these many elders will be doomed to horrid conditions and a lack of just treatment due to diminishing budgets and lack of a formidable system which allows the proper care of the elderly to be taken. From the graph below, one can see that these numbers are not a fluke and just between 2007 and 2010 how great the influx really is for the elderly inmates