A special report produced by Human Rights Watch finds that the number of people sentenced to Federal and State prison who are age 65 and older grew 94 times faster than the total sentenced prisoner population between 2007 and 2010.
During those same years, says the report, the older prison population increased by 65 percent, while the total prison population increased by only 0.7 percent. The United States has the largest prison population in the world — 2.3 million — as the result of decades of “tough on crime” policies, an expanding number of life-sentence crimes and tougher parole requirements in recent years.
The factors contributing to the growing number of prisoners also contribute to the number of people who are imprisoned at older ages or are likely to grow old in prison, according to the report. The increasing age of the prison population is currently driving up prison costs in a trend that is likely to continue unless policies change, the organization says. Recommendations in the report include conducting reviews of inmates who are physically incapacitated by age and no longer a threat to society, and a review of sentencing and release laws and practices to determine which can be adjusted to reduce the elderly prisoner population without risking public safety.
”A burgeoning geriatric prisoner population has important financial, practical, and moral implications for all Americans, not just those incarcerated. The United States should consider whether such a population is something that the country wants or needs. Human Rights Watch believes it is neither,” the report says.