The elderly prison population is growing at all levels, causing increased medical expenses and space issues in Tennessee, says the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “It’s a serious issue right now. There could be a point in time when it would be a crushing burden,” said Tennessee Department of Correction Deputy Commissioner Gayle Ray. She said aging baby boomers and enhanced sentences have contributed to a nationwide problem. Two elderly inmates who last year racked up $1 million in medical bills apiece — a significant portion of the $67 million budgeted for the medical needs of the system, houses about 19,300 adults.
Hamilton County Jail Chief Jim Hart said aging prisoners in custody draw more resources. “They may be on a special diet,” he said. “Some may have to be in diapers.  They may need special accommodations if they can’t get up on the second bunk.” Ray believes more solutions will have to be created — perhaps to the extent of building entire prisons exclusively designed for assisted living. State officials have been in communication with Kentucky officials, who have expressed interest in building a long-term care facility for several neighboring states to share. Though Tennessee does not have a sentence review committee to determine whether older inmates need to remain in prison once they become infirm, elderly people in state prisons can apply for medical furlough in their last six months of life.