In the 1970s, the United States lived through a cultural upheaval unleashed by the sexual and civil rights revolutions -- and a genuine spike in crime, possibly as a consequence of lead poisoning from gasoline. We responded politically by increasing penalties for many offenses, especially those that were drug related, and jailing offenders while throwing away the key through "3 strikes" laws.
Result: now we've got a lot of old men (it's mostly men, mostly of color) who have served 20 or 30 years behind bars, pose little danger to society, and will have a very hard time if released. When we do let them out, (hey, releases save governments money!) they have to survive without social support after we've made them unfit for freedom as elders.
There are encouraging signs that the country is recovering from our fear-induced incarceration binge. We are sending less prisoners into the pipeline these days. But currently released elders face an impossible, cruel old age.
This post is an installment in an occasional series on what I see as an escalating campaign to villify the growing population of old people, world-wide. Yes, there are a lot of us these days, but we cannot justly be made scapegoats for the world's problems. Part 1 here.