Billy Warfield

Parole Reform For Ohio’s Aging Prison Population, by Billy Warfield

As of January 21st of 2020, the state of Ohio had approximately 48,723 inmates. 6,815 of these inmates are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole. In 2018 Ohio had a 50 and older population of 9,479 inmates. The fiscal, legal, social and political challenges of Ohio housing these aging inmates has arrived with full force at precisely the time when Ohio is looking to rein in spending. A problem spanning for decades will become a state wide epidemic if we don’t start a parole reform for our aging Ohio prisoners.

The numbers are alarming and keep rising. In 2003 there were just under 5,000 inmates over the age of 50 in the state of Ohio. That number has doubled and in 2019, Ohio added 1,591 inmates over the age of 50. Ohio even added 1,228 inmates ages 45 to 49 in 2019, so in 5 years these same inmates will be added to Ohio’s aging prison population of inmates over the age of 50.

How long do we Ohioians stay in strong support of prison based retribution purely for the sake of an eye for an eye, which is the same as being ” compensated by their time” for our pain. Some inmates languish and die before their releases. This begs the question, should frail, incapacitated inmates remain inside our Ohio prisons?

At what point does it become cruel and inhumane? The state of Ohio does not have the services geared towards aging inmates.

For Ohio the increased numbers for our aging prison population should be alarming. The consequences of that aging is money, more and more money every year. Healthcare for aging prisoners costs three to four times more than it does for younger ones, just as it does outside prison walls. Over time you’ll need more and more money for Ohio’s aging prison population because they will need more drugs, more special visits, more nursing staff and nursing hours, more everything.

At a time a time when our Ohio prisons are overcrowded and underfunded, we can begin to take a look at the aging prison population and find a way to refer and parole these inmates to a nursing home, or to family and friends. This would not even be a big political issue.

Congress created compassionate releases as a way to free certain inmates, such as the terminally ill, when it becomes ” inequitable ” to keep them in prison any longer. We need to wake up and realize this is a humanitarian measure and a sensible way to reduce Healthcare costs for the ailing, elderly, Ohio inmates who pose little risk to public safety.
Around the country, early release provisions for elderly and infirm prisoners are billed as a way to address problems such as prison overcrowding, sky-rocketing budgets and civil rights lawsuits alleging inadequate medical care. But throughout the U.S., they are used so infrequently that they are not having much impact.

Out of 47 states with processes to free such prisoners early or court rulings requiring them to do so, just three – Utah, Texas and Louisiana – released more than a dozen people in 2015, according to a Journal sentinel survey.

Ohio has taken health out of criminal Justice policy to such a degree that the policies that have been developed do not have the geriatric and polliative care knowledge they need to make sense.

I believe we need a clear and comprehensive compassionate release law in the state of Ohio. My solution would be to qualify: prisoners must be 55 to 60 years of age with 5 years served. Prisoner’s with chronic health conditions also may apply regardless of age or time served if two doctors – either inside or outside – certify the illnesses can’t be properly treated in prison.

A committee of prison employee’s make the decision’s about when to refer the inmate to the parole board for possible release. The committee must include a mental health staff member, social worker, and may include healthcare workers. It’s members must consider several factors, including costs. During a committe hearing, the inmate makes a presentation about why release would serve the public interest.

Our criminal justice center should serve the well being of society. That is certainly a complex task, but at its core it means focusing on the future ( deterrence of other similar crimes, inmates danger to society, their threat of repeated criminal activity ), rather than on the past ( victims – often justifiably – wanting to see defendants suffer equally to that which the victims have experienced. ) It also means not wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to house Ohio’s aging prison population who pose little risk to our Ohio communities.

Nearly a quarter – million inmates in state and federal prisons are classified as ” elders ” or ” aging “, according to the ACLU report. The designation applies to inmates age 50 and older whose aging process, according to the National Institute of Corrections, is often accelerated by general poor health before entering prison and the stress of confinement once there.

As Ohioians we can’t remain blind to the fact that the vast majority of patients and aging prisoners in our Ohio prisons are no longer a danger to our communities. Let’s start today and come together collectively and start working on a parole reform for our aging prison population.

If you believe in humanity, you believe that all of us, including criminals, are capable of choosing redemption and demonstrating that choice unless they are insane or consumed by evil.

It shouldn’t matter if we had the lowest per capita incarceration rate on the planet; that’s not the issue. Using that as justification weakens the argument, as it implies that its largely for practical ( ” space ” ) reasons that we’ll examine release.

Rather it should be based on what the term ” justice ” means, not emotional, not political, and not utilitarian ( ” physical space ” ), but moral and philosophical; that should always inform policy.

There is no reason to keep people locked up longer than needed for detterence, reasonable retribution, and to protect society. I am sure that modern data could identify what those numbers are based upon algorithms. My mother who’s a correctional leutinant in Northern Kentucky use to tell me that, the problem is that we imprison people we’re mad at, not that we’re afraid of. We need to get our heads right on this and begin the process of scaling back the prison / industrial complex by a parole reform focused on the releases of Ohio’s aging prison population. Let’s make a way for justice tempered with mercy.

Billy Warfield #755849
Po Box 300
Orient, Ohio 43146
email: jpay.com

***

Age: 39
Hometown: Cincinnati Ohio
attend Sinclair college
Release date: April 2023

Categories: Billy Warfield, parole, reform

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