Prison Law Blog--The Looming Crisis in Our Nation’s Prisons: Aging Inmates

Sara Mayeux runs the best prison law blog on the net--the appropriately named Prison Law Blog.

In a recent post, Sara discussed the costs of incarcerating elderly inmates:

Around the country, men and women who were sentenced to very long prison terms in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are starting to reach their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s. Many of our nation’s prisons are ill-equipped to care for young, healthy people, much less the aging and infirm — and considering that prison life itself can exacerbate physical and mental health conditions, it seems like a safe assumption that after 20 or 30 years of life behind bars our aging prisoners are going to require extraordinary outlays, and/or be subject to extraordinary suffering. Already in California, medical care for the state’s 21 sickest prisoners costs an estimated $40 million per year — some of which goes simply to paying the salaries of guards who watch over them 24/7 while they are in the hospital.
I don’t have any idea how states that have been particularly enamored of LWOP and three strikes laws and the rest plan to deal with this problem in coming years. I’d guess the states don’t have any idea, either.

In Illinois, there are some talks of creating a geriatric prison. While this might help streamline scarce resources within the prison system, it fails to address a more profound question. Given the high cost of incarcerating elderly prisoners, what does our state get in return?