Aging Inmates: A Convergence of Trends in the American Criminal Justice System

Robert Vann (R.V.). Rikard, Appalachian State University
Ed Rosenberg, Appalachian State University

During the last 30 years, longer prison sentences and reductions in the use of parole have resulted in rapidly expanding numbers of offenders within the American correctional system. Today's corrections system must deal not only with increased numbers of offenders but an increased variety of offenders as well. One such category of "special needs" offenders are elderly inmates. Inmates who reach "old age" present unique management challenges as they experience unique adjustments and accommodations to prison life. Of particular relevance to policy makers is the basic question: what is to be done with this special population that represents a strain on the resources available in the American correctional system? Some have advocated the early release or medical release of those "elderly" inmates who no longer pose a threat to society. However, victim advocacy groups and state and federal correctional policy indicate that early release is not the predominate trend. Insights gleaned from gerontology will be used to assess various programs and policies that might benefit both the "older" inmate and society as a whole.

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Updated 05/20/2006