Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Virginia's Geriatric Prison

At the end of 2009, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,613,656 prisoners. This level of incarceration, which is the highest in our nation's history, has resulted in financial burdens and tough questions. How do correctional systems cater to elderly inmates and how will correctional systems evolve to meet the needs of an aging prison population? The article, “Caregiving Behind Bars: Correctional Officer Reports of Disability in Geriatric Prisoners,” concludes that correctional systems are not adequately prepared to properly treat geriatric prisoners.

A recent story in The Washington Post summarizes the experiences of inmates at Deerfield Correctional Center, Virginia’s only geriatric prison. The cost of housing an inmate at the 1,000 bed facility runs about $28,000 per year, in comparison to $19,000 at a medium security prison in Virginia. The geriatric facility provides services that are in high demand as evidenced by its long waitlist.

Such demand, particularly in Virginia, is partially related to the fact that the state maintains the lowest parole rate in the nation. In the near future, states will have to consider how they can better meet the needs of elderly prisoners and facilitate transitions to the community among those individuals that are released to reduce pressure on correctional systems. Louisiana recently rejected a measure that would have changed parole laws for elderly prisoners, while the Texas State Parole Board considers medical recommendations.

For a previous blog on reentry initiatives.

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