Mitigating the cost of aging prisoners through alternatives to incarceration

Aging prisoners are a growing number within the total inmate population. Their health care typically costs more and they require more time and attention from correctional officers who already have a full roster of inmates to monitor.

This reality has led many advocates to argue for the implementation of alternative approaches to the aging prisoner population, including reentry and parole programs and electronic monitoring.

According to the report, in California alone, 21 percent of the prison population is now older than 50, and all over the country baby boomers imprisoned during periods of stricter sentencing laws continue to age behind bars.

For many advocates of alternatives to incarceration for aging prisoners—like Joyce Hayhoe, director of legislation and communications for the California Correctional Health Care Receivership, who’s quoted by Governing—there comes a point when it’s no longer in the public’s best interest to keep an elderly prisoner who’s in very poor health behind bars.

California, a state on the leading edge of prison reform following a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that they decrease their prison populations, has implemented a compassionate release parole program for prisoners who are permanently medically incapacitated, while 15 states in all have created some form of early release for elderly inmates.

The issue of aging prisoners is on the minds of many think-tanks including the Urban Institute which released a repo
rt in August
calling for meaningful data on the costs of incarcerating older prisoners. The report also provided recommendations to develop cost-effective management plans for aging prisoners, which includes employing early release programs, even in cases that aren’t considered extraordinary.

Parole programs like reentry programming or the use of electronic monitoring technology can help to off-set the high costs of incarceration while still monitoring the actions of individuals released early from their prison sentences.

Reentry programming also works to reduce the risk of recidivism by helping to successfully reintegrate participants back into their communities. You can learn more about the services offered by GEO Reentry, click here.