Friday, June 14, 2013

Elders behind bars

I seldom respond well to unsolicited blog-fodder, but I was intrigued by an infographic a correspondent named Cara Delany sent me. It seeks to stimulate discussion about the growing number of elders in the prison population. Ms. Delany describes herself as an "marketing intern." You can see the whole graphic here. I found her topic and data important, so I'm passing on a couple of the best bits of the effort here.

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:

The number of inmates serving life sentences quadrupled between 1984 and 2008; inmates who live a long time with life sentences will grow old and are most likely to die in prison.

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!


Classof65 said...

Can you still receive your Social Security benefits while in prison?

janinsanfran said...

Bringing a comment over from Facebook:
Sandra wrote: "What's the answer? Will this be like the 70s when mental patients were put out on the streets? Will our old prisoners suddenly have nowhere to go?"

janinsanfran said...

Sandra answers Classof65: "Any Social Security benefits from any of the programs (disability, SSI, retirement) will not be paid while the prisoner is confined. Medicare Part A is the only thing a person can be eligible for while in prison. Well, they can get Medicare Part B if they're eligible and can pay for it. If they're out on the streets, they can at least apply for SS."

I'm sure she knows.

Classof65 said...

Well, then, I guess I won't go to prison... especially since they won't let me smoke there either! :-)

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