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Costs Growing Due to Aging Inmates

In 1970, young minor league pro baseball player William "Lefty" Gilday assisted a group of students attempting to rob a bank. Unfortunately, when the police responded, officer Walter Schroeder was shot and killed. Even though Gilday claimed it was an accident, he lawyers were unsuccessful as he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. However, in 1972, he instead became a prisoner for life, because the Supreme Court banned capital punishment. That ban lasted only a short while as the attorneys quickly litigated this issue.

As a lifer, William was well liked throughout the prison as he assisted many prisoners with their legal cases However, a few years ago, he developed dementia. He was already suffering from numerous other diseases and ailments. His fellow inmates had to care for him by purchasing special foods, feeding him, and providing basic necessities. He was eventually taken to a secluded area within the prison where he supposedly received treatment. However, it was noted that he stank like urine and feces, wasn't assisted with eating, and wholly ignored by the nurses. Shortly thereafter he died. Alas, he was in his 80's.

This story of elderly in our prisons is becoming more and more commonplace. Between 1995 and 2010, the US prison population grew 42 percent. However, the number of inmates over the age of 55 grew at nearly 280%! Currently, America has more inmates than any other country. There are more than 2.2 million people incarcerated today. With our suffering economy and the lack of ability and funds to care for the elderly in prison, some politicians, wardens, and others and suggested we release some of the older inmates.

In 2010, United States incarcerated about 125,000 inmates aged 55 or older. About 1 in 12 state and federal prison inmates is 55 or older.

The ACLU estimates that by 2030, that number will be over 400,000. They say that caring for aging prisoners cost taxpayers about $16 billion annually. We pay about $68,000 a year per inmate over 50. The older the inmate, the greater the cost, due to the needs of the elderly.

This is an issue America must address soon.