The budget starts people thinking about doing what is right

Our prisons are filled with people who did their crimes in their youth and are now rehabilitated and needed out here. The recent budget crisis may help this group finally get the freedom for which they have been longing.  This from the NYT:

”  Fresh efforts are under way in the states to reduce prison populations, partly driven by severe state budget shortfalls, and as a result, more aged and infirm inmates are being considered for release. It’s no wonder that states are looking at releasing older inmates. Incarceration costs for a prisoner over age 55 run about three times as much as the average prisoner, largely because of higher medical spending. Care for patients incarcerated in state prisons must be paid for entirely by states, but once the offenders are released, they qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. In Wisconsin, for instance, healthcare costs for adult prisoners more than tripled, from $28.5 million in 1998 to $87.6 million in 2005. In the same time period, the prison population rose by 25%. Meanwhile, the overall prison population is growing old. Out of the more than 1.4 million males confined to state or federal prisons in 2008, nearly 150,000 were age 50 or older. Some 15,800 were 65 or older, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Statistics . For women, out of 105,300 in total, 8,700 were over age 50, with only 600 age 65 or older. Caregivers and experts on prison healthcare define incarcerated over age 50 as elderly, because their overall health usually is more on par with the average 60- or 65-year-old living in free society. This is partly because of the stresses of prison life, and also because of lifelong poverty, poor nutrition and often drug abuse. The aging prison population is partly the result of tougher sentencing guidelines that started in the 1970s, including three-strikes laws. One in 11 prisoners nationwide is serving a life sentence–in some states as many as one in six prisoners have been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. “All this created a boom in aging prisoners,” says David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.”

In this blog we will have studies down on the elderly population and our present efforts in Wisconsin to craft a bill for the upcoming 2013 legislative session that would give the elderly a clear path to release.

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