Aging men and women are the most rapidly growing group in US prisons, and prison officials are hard-pressed to provide them appropriate housing and medical care, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Because of their higher rates of illness and impairments, older prisoners incur medical costs that are three to nine times as high as those for younger prisoners.A Texas-based fact-bite from the report: "In Texas, although elderly inmates represent only 5.4 percent of the inmate population, they account for more than 25 percent of hospitalization costs. The healthcare cost per day in fiscal year 2005 for an elderly offender was $26, compared to $7 per day for the average offender. In fiscal year 2010, the state paid $4,853 per elderly offender for healthcare compared to $795 for inmates under 55."
The 104-page report, “Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States,” includes new data Human Rights Watch developed from a variety of federal and state sources that document dramatic increases in the number of older US prisoners.
Human Rights Watch found that the number of sentenced state and federal prisoners age 65 or older grew at 94 times the rate of the overall prison population between 2007 and 2010. The number of sentenced prisoners age 55 or older grew at six times the rate of the overall prison population between 1995 and 2010.
“Prisons were never designed to be geriatric facilities,” said Jamie Fellner, senior adviser to the US Program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Yet US corrections officials now operate old age homes behind bars.”
Long sentences mean that many current prisoners will not leave prison until they become extremely old, if at all. Human Rights Watch found that almost 1 in 10 state prisoners (9.6 percent) is serving a life sentence. An additional 11.2 percent have sentences longer than 20 years.
Friday, January 27, 2012
"Old Behind Bars"
From a Human Rights Watch press release: