James Roe, 75, one of Texas’s oldest inmates, has had four heart attacks and is being treated for high blood pressure, and other ailments, says the Beaumont Enterprise. “If a person must be confined; this is the best place to be,” Roe said. Roe lives in the Estelle Unit, which the newspaper says is considered the crown jewel of geriatric care facilities in Texas prisons. It houses 60 inmates from 58 to 86 who are dwindling into their final years. “The whole prison population is aging,” said manager William Samarneh. “There are more chronic problems in the system – that’s a fact of life.”
The 3,534 inmates older than 60, the fastest-growing group in Texas’ prisons, use health care resources at a rate of four or five times that of younger offenders. This accounts for costs eight to 10 times those for younger inmates. The state pays $7.68 per day or $2,803 per year for each inmate’s medical needs. An inmate over 60 uses health care resources at a rate of about $61 to $76 per day or $22,425 to $28,032 per year. With an imate population of 151,500, Texas’ prison system already is reaching the limits of its capacity of 156,000. For correctional managed health care, which includes geriatric care, the prison system is asking for $59.3 million. For 2009, a legislative panel believes the prisons will need $62.7 million. The number of older inmates could accelerate even faster now that Texas has a life-without-parole statute. The largest group of geriatric inmates is made up of sex offenders.