When Hugo “Bud” Kladivko, 83, shuffled into the Florida penal system last month, he joined a group whose surging membership poses costly problems behind bars: the elderly. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the retired businessman, sentenced to life in the murder of his wife, Brenda, became the 71st inmate 80 or older in Florida prisons and one of 14,000 who are 50 or older, which prison system defines as “elderly.” “Someone 50 years old in the system might be like someone 60 outside,” said Gretl Plessinger of the corrections department. “They tend, as a group, to have smoked more, to have used drugs more and to have generally lived higher-risk lifestyles.”
That costs taxpayers. In Florida, the number of inmates 50 or older has nearly tripled in 10 years, accounting for about 14 percent of prisoners. The cost of incarcerating an elderly offender is about three times more than younger ones, said Herb Hoelter of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives. He said the aging inmate population — a function of mandatory-sentencing laws such as Florida’s 10-20-Life statute that requires prison time for gun crimes — burdens the state with expensive medical needs, including wheelchairs and cancer treatments. “All this get-tough-on-crime stuff has been building for years,” he said. “We’re paying for guys who are dying.” Florida has created “geriatric” wings in four prisons.