CAPPS is actively working to address the problem of aging prisoners, especially individuals serving life terms. Here is a long, but important ACLU report that highlights the problem of aging prisoners: please download the report here. From the introduction:
“[Y]ou actually create victims by not letting [elderly prisoners] go and us[ing] your resources on rehabilitation for the ones that are going to get out . . . . When I came here and saw the elderly population, I said, ‘God, well, why are they here? Our name is Corrections to correct deviant behavior [but] there’s nothing to correct in these guys; they’re harmless . . . .’”
—Burl cain, Warden of Louisiana state penitentiary at Angola1
The United states is the largest incarcerator in the world, with 2.3 million people behind bars. Prisoners across the country are also getting older and experiencing all the same ailments that afflict those of the same age who are not behind bars. Our extreme sentencing policies and a growing number of life sentences have effectively turned many of our correctional facilities into veritable nursing homes—and taxpayers are paying for it.
From 1980 to 2010, the United states prison population grew over 11 times faster than the general population. During this time, the general population increased by 36%, while the state and federal prison population increased by over 400%. the number of elderly people in our prisons is growing even faster. the graying prison population has become a national epidemic afflicting states around the country—from California to Missouri to Florida— further burdening already strained state budgets. According to the national institute of corrections, prisoners age 50 and older are considered “elderly” or “aging” due to unhealthy conditions prior to and during incarceration. this report uses that definition and finds that there are 246,600 elderly prisoners behind bars across the country. to the extent possible, this report provides data for prisoners age 50 and older; in a few cases when data for this age group is not readily available, this report provides data on the next closest age range.