These older prisoners are mostly past the age when they are much danger to society. Only 17 percent of prisoners over 50 who leave prison commit another crime, compared to 40 percent of all prisoners released. We're keeping them locked up because we binged on imprisonment over the last few decades what with the "war on drugs," three-strikes laws, and politicians needing to appear "tough on crime." As Delany writes:
Meanwhile, it's expensive to lock up old people if you give them decent medical care. And states seldom grant "compassionate release" to dying prisoners.
The country can't afford a bloated prison system choking on people who've done their time and largely should be released. It's not as if they are going to have an easy time on the outside after long sentences and very likely losing touch with families and communities. But what we are doing is crazy!