The Plight of the Elderly in Prison

Take Action >> Louisiana: House Bill 138 would give elderly or ailing inmates the right to present their case in a hearing before a parole board to determine whether they should be released to their families to care for them.

Prisoners across America are getting older, experiencing all the same ailments that afflict those who aren’t behind bars. Extreme sentencing policies and a growing number of life sentences without the possibility of parole have effectively turned many of our correctional facilities into veritable nursing homes – and we’re paying for it. Nationally, the cost of imprisoning an elderly individual for one year is approximately $72,000, which is triple the cost of a younger one.


As the national overall prison population is exploding, the number of people age 55 or older in our prisons grew by a whopping 76.9 percent between 1999 and 2007. This has become a national epidemic afflicting states around the country and further burdening their already strained state budgets.

Not only is this wasteful, it’s inhumane. We keep the elderly locked up in the face of undisputed research showing that committing crimes drops dramatically with age. Department of Justice statistics show that prisoners 55 or older recidivate at a rate of just 2 percent. Additional studies have shown that there is virtually no recidivism for individuals age 60 or older. It’s clear that it’s senseless to spend exorbitant amounts of money to imprison elderly people who pose no threat to public safety.

As a matter of common sense, states should allow these individuals the right to a hearing before a parole board to present their case for release. If they are no longer threats to public safety, there is no reason for them to be incarcerated.

Clearly there are better alternatives to wasting huge sums of money keeping elderly inmates in prison for the rest of their natural lives, even when it is clear they no longer pose a threat to the general public.

LOUISIANA RESIDENTS: Take Action! Tell your legislators to support HB 138.

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