Converting Prisons

picture of a closed prison yard

Recent research indicates that the number of elderly prisoners is at an all-time high. This means that incarceration facilities are being forced to play the role of hospices and care homes since they must provide end-of-life care to the elderly inmates. According to the research, the number of inmates who are over 60 years old has tripled over the past 15 years. It is similarly estimated that this population will continue rising at a higher rate in the next five years.

According to estimates, those who are over 50 years old will account to nearly 17 percent of the total inmate population by 2020. This is a dire situation, which calls for immediate reforms. Prison authorities point out that there is need to introduce purpose built prisons for this segment of the inmate population. This is because older inmates have special healthcare needs that prisons can no longer cope with because the existing facilities are already stretched to the limit.

Seismic Population Changes

The federal government ought to be blamed for the current crisis because it has left jails to to deal with the seismic population change on their own. Prison officers do not have the necessary training and expertise needed to take care of infirm and elderly inmates. In addition, the existing facilities were built with younger and fitter prisoners in mind. This makes it hard for elderly inmates to survive. A well-resourced older inmate strategy is long overdue since it will help drive consistent service delivery to elderly inmates across all prisons.

Debunking the Numbers

It still surprises many people that the number of elderly inmates is rising at an alarming rate. This growth is mainly attributed to by the increased length of sentences offered by courts. In addition, there has also been an increase in the number of later-in-life prosecutions. Prisoners who are aged between 60 to 69 years form a bulk of the elderly inmate population.

Despite the fast growth, there is an insignificant strategic grip on the demographic change. Prisons have had to come up with their own localized short-term solutions, which are nonetheless deficient. Jailing elderly prisoners who can barely take care of themselves alongside younger and fitter inmates is not only demeaning but also inhuman. It’s an extra punishment, which does more harm than good to the elderly inmates. It's amazing to think that all of these old prisons are being converted into hospices and care homes for the elderly.

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