Okay, now that that's out of the way, check out this front page article from the Washington Post about the aging prison population:
Harsh sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums, continue to have lasting consequences for inmates and the nation’s prison system. Today, prisoners 50 and older represent the fastest-growing population in crowded federal correctional facilities, their ranks having swelled by 25 percent to nearly 31,000 from 2009 to 2013.I'm hopeful that judges will take note and start ordering alternative sentences -- especially for first-time non-violent offenders -- that will help society instead of just warehousing people. May the force be with you!
Some prisons have needed to set up geriatric wards, while others have effectively been turned into convalescent homes.
The aging of the prison population is driving health-care costs being borne by American taxpayers. The Bureau of Prisons saw health-care expenses for inmates increase 55 percent from 2006 to 2013, when it spent more than $1 billion. That figure is nearly equal to the entire budget of the U.S. Marshals Service or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, who is conducting a review of the impact of the aging inmate population on prison activities, housing and costs.
“Our federal prisons are starting to resemble nursing homes surrounded with razor wire,” said Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “It makes no sense fiscally, or from the perspective of human compassion, to incarcerate men and women who pose no threat to public safety and have long since paid for their crime. We need to repeal the absurd mandatory minimum sentences that keep them there.”
The Obama administration is trying to overhaul the criminal justice system by allowing prisoners who meet certain criteria to be released early through clemency and urging prosecutors to reserve the most severe drug charges for serious, high-level offenders.
At the same time, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency, has made tens of thousands of incarcerated drug offenders eligible for reduced sentences.
But until more elderly prisoners are discharged — either through compassionate release programs or the clemency initiative started by then-attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. last year — the government will be forced to spend more to serve the population. Among other expenditures, that means hiring additional nurses and redesigning prisons — installing showers that can be used by the elderly, for instance, or ensuring that entryways are wheelchair-accessible.