More men are growing old in the nation’s prisons than at any time in U.S. history, NPR reports. It’s the result of longer sentences and the elimination of parole. The price tag is showing. It costs taxpayers $16 billion a year to house aging inmates, with health care and special needs. Experts say that by 2030, the number of aging prisoners will grow into the hundreds of thousands. States are facing costs in the billions.
Any state that releases 14 or so of these inmates saves $1 million a year. Colorado is putting inmates through a kind of school, called the Long Term Offender Program, to teach them what life is like on the outside. All of them have been carefully selected — men with excellent prison records and a likely chance of parole. Tim Hand created the program at Colorado’s Department of Corrections. He starts off the meeting simply: “What can we do to help you,” he says. This program hopes to teach these men how to navigate a fast-paced world; how to rejoin a society that isn’t sure they deserve the chance. What it can’t do is help them face themselves, NPR says. The men will go to counseling and take classes, gain perspective on their crimes and help each other, and in some cases, get paroled to freedom.