The "Greying" of America's Prisons: Elderly Inmates and Their Impact on Corrections

Barbara Koons-Witt, University of South Carolina
John D. Burrow, University of South Carolina
Pamela J. Schram, California State Univ., San Bernardino

Since the 1980's, there have been increasing concerns about the changing demographics within our nation's prisons and jails. Much of this concern has centered on the "greying" of the prison population. In 2000, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that while only 3.3% of state and federal correctional populations were age 55 or older that figure was expected to rise tremendously over the next several decades. With the "greying" of America's prisons, many believe there will be increased pressures on federal and state correctional managers to provide services and health care to meet the needs of this special population of offenders. Many state corrections systems are only now beginning to turn their attention to understanding the implications for incarcerating this group of offenders and the special needs that they require. The current paper examines the impact of the elderly inmate population on corrections using a national survey of state inmates from two time periods. Changes in the elderly inmate population are presented and the special needs of this population are analyzed. The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings and their implications for correctional policy.

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Updated 05/20/2006