Jailed Seniors Cost Americans $16 Billion Per Year

By 2030, inmates over the age of 50 are expected to make up almost a third of the total projected prison population.

Anthony Marshall, 89, is the oldest person ever sent to a New York prison for a nonviolent crime.

That’s according to NBC News, whose interest was piqued by the growing trend of older defendants. “Prisoners older than 55 make up the single fastest-growing segment of the U.S. prison community,” it says.

Nearly a quarter million people over the age of 50 were in a cell last year, NBC says. By 2030, they’re expected to make up almost a third of the total projected prison population.

Zealous sentencing may be to blame. Legal expert Inimai Chettiar told NBC that it has become more common for offenses that were once considered low priority to command strict and harsh sentences. For instance, Marshall could have been given house arrest or probation instead, she said.

Incarcerating people isn’t cheap, but it’s especially expensive for those with failing health. State and federal prisons spend an estimated $16 billion a year keeping the elderly behind bars, NBC says. While the numbers vary, there’s no mistaking the vast difference in cost between younger and older prisoners.

In Georgia, the average annual medical cost for inmates younger than 65 is $961, NBC says. For seniors, it’s $8,565. In North Carolina, medical care for elderly prisoners costs four times what it does for those younger than 50.

Some states are considering measures that would get those expensive prisoners off the taxpayers’ back, NBC says, by allowing parole hearings for low-risk older inmates. Louisiana passed such a law in 2011.

What do you think? Should elderly prisoners get special treatment in light of their higher cost? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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  • jlo1965

    New York’s whole upstate economy is supported by prisons. The department of corrections is the biggest employer is the state. The correctional officers union has lobbyist making sure it stays that way. The Department of Correctional services and community Supervision merger in New York state is an expansion of Tyranny and Slavery. The recent consolidation of DOCS and parole in New York is being held by many people as a positive step towards alleviating the mass incarceration problem in the state. Any consolidation of power has historically proven to be a step towards increasingly oppressive government authority. This recent shift into a facade of ” fixing ” a problem has merely laid the ground work for ever greater harm to those upon whom it is to be applied. In short, now the community is supervise by the prison authorities, the state, in essence, has become one big
    prison. History teaches that power does not reverse itself but only seeks expansion. In the 1970’s, New York changed its ” prisons” into “correctional facilities” under the auspices of fixing the problem. The idea was to not just throw people into a cage, but to “rehabilitate” them by focusing on teaching trades and education-to fill the “inmate’s” ( no longer merely “prisoners” ) time productively. Instead, it grew into the monster we have today where much more people are imprisoned for much longer time in order to provide upstate New York with an economy. The natural evolution of such an expansion is to stretch the power to
    encompass the whole state, rather than separate individual prisons. Issues of injustice and wrongful imprisonment are never actually addressed since those are the methods by which the power feeds itself. It can not be said the New York does not have an injustice or wrongful conviction problem . The amount of wrongful convictions discovered are a small fraction of those that actually exist. Most are undiscovered since attorneys , courts, police, and prisons have an interest, political and economical, in keeping the convictions they obtain from being revealed as wrongful. The interests are not in favor of justice no matter how much they declare themselves to be the sole purveyors of justice. Time and again the interests prove to be power at all costs.
    In 2006, 1* a report concluded that New York’s system of indigent criminal defense has failed its constitutional and legal
    obligations to provide effective assistance of counsel to the indigent accused. With at least 80% of NY prisoners being the indigent accused, there is a substantial amount of convictions that are not only unreliable and questionable, but outright unconstitutional and illegal. It has became standard procedure to arbitrarily dispose of people, and the idea held by many that those merely accused of crime deserve no rights is already a working reality. The Civil Commitment mandates are an example of steps in this direction. Where people may be imprisoned not upon any actual act crime, but upon an ” authority’s” idea of the likelihood to commit a crime. While it applies only to sex offenders at first because nobody likes them, once the practice is
    established and the bugs worked out it will be applied to all. It was not that long ago that the same tactic was applied to required DNA collecting. . DNA was first required by law to be taken from only sex offenders. Then violent offenders, then all offenders, despite concerns of invasion of privacy, ect. The steady progress of tyranny has always been advanced under such pretended goals of safety, security, and fixing problems.In the beginning it may sound like a good solution to problems of mass incarceration. But with this ground work laid the future is open for ever greater enslavement of the population. It may
    present an opportunity to have a captive workforce ready in the community that does not need to be given a salary. It may have other results that are not fully known at this point. But the principle is certain that with New York now one big prison,the problems of injustice will prove to have been multiplied.
    Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense in New York final report to Judge Judith Kaye June 2006

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