In America, the prison population is exponetially expanding. in 2008, it was reported that one in every 100 American adults waas incarcerated, about 746 Americans per 100,000 were incarcerated. That was 11 years ago and this number has increased. A closer examination of the statistics reveals an even more disturbing trend: the increased number of elderly inmates in general. The national Institute of Corrections defines older/elderly inmates as 50 years or older”. Studies show that between 1995 and 2010 the numbers of incarcerated people older than 55 quadrupled. The aging prison population of America is being examined because prison costs associated with this demographic are skyrocketing.
Humane treatment of prisoners as a whole, especially older ones, is inarguably the hallmark of civilized society. Because of stricter prison sentencing guidelines and parole policies, prison populations across America are exploding. The United States has the largest incarceration rate per capita across the globe. America’s incarcerated aging population is expected to increase 20% between 2010 and 2030. Moreover, this sector is relevant because the population of prisoners aged 50 and above is twiccce aas large today as it was in 2001 and five times as large as it was in 1990 in addition, in 2007, inmates aged 50 and older made up 9% of the 2.3 million inmates
in the general correctional population.
So one has to ask oneself, are these elderly LWOP inmates really a danger to society? Can they be reviewed for their rehabilitative and disciplinary records and considered for parole? Corrections and Rehabilitation are only empty words if there is no review of disciplianry records, interviews for insight of crime nexus and their individal efforts to change and be productive citizens in society.
Chronic illness increases with age. Chronic conditions affecting the elderly inmate along wiith the stress of incarceration significantly affects a prisoners general health, not to mention inadequate access to healthcare. Few geriatric programs exist in prison populations hence, most prison healthcare providers are underqualified to care for older inmates.
Adapting a prison’s physical structure to accomodate a geriatric population is costly. Eighth Amendment challenges have originated from inmates litigating the denial of adequate medical care for serious medical needs which the court system often denies due to lack of counsel. Medical care is a basic human right and especially so for inmates who are considered “state property.”
Aging LWOPs represent a diverse and unique slice of humanity. Some LWOPs come from broken homes, abusive childhoods, physical and emotional trauma, abusive marital relationships, and engaged in destructive behaviors such as substance abuse prior to their arrest, the same factors as lifers with parole eligible sentences and many non-lifers. It’s what they have done in recovery and evidenced by diciplinary records, self-help programs, education and how they served their prison community that should taken into consideration. After 25 years of incarceration it is clear what kind of person they have become and who they are TODAY.
I am advocating for the review of elder LWOP inmates in consideration for parole based on the disciplinary and rehabilitative program they have demonstrated during their incarceration. I truly believe from my own experience as an LWOP that LWOP prisoners DO rehabilitate and can be productiive members of society. It is a fact that lifers/LWOPs that have earned parole have a low recidivism rate. If LWOPs alone were seriously reviewed, (who one would think had no incentive for rehabilitation) I believe it would be shown that we are the best candidates for commutation to a parole eligible sentence. I have confidence under Govenor Newsom that the BPH would take rigorous measures to evaluate the special circustances that our crimes are based on and ensure that we have the depth of insight, remorse and rehabilitation that would be conducive for parole.