The-fastest-growing population in federal and state prisons are those 55 and older, a trend that is forcing cash-strapped local governments to wrestle with the growing cost of caring for the aging inmates. According to a recent study by Human Rights Watch, the number of state and federal prisoners 55 or over nearly quadrupled to 124,400 between 1995 and 2010, while the prison population as a whole grew by only 42. Some legal experts cite the 1980/90′s drug wars which sent away thousands of young men to decades-long prison sentences. In addition, tougher sentencing laws, including the abolition of parole in many states and the advent of three-strikes-you’re-out laws in others, have fueled the growth in the overall prison population. At current rates, a third of all prisoners will be 50 or older by 2030, according to a study to be released next month by the American Civil Liberties Union. Some experts are pushing states to take the controversial step of releasing certain older prisoners, e.g., those who are infirm, before their sentences are up. But this approach is not popular with those who believe, contrary to solid research, that lengthy incarceration has been a factor in decreasing crime rates to historically low levels.
News & Views
Posted April 25th, 2012