The number of prisoners over the age of 55 serving more than one year in state prisons increased from 26,300 to 131,500 in the last two decades, according to a study released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
The study, entitled “Aging of the State Prison Population, 1993-2013,” written by BJS statistician E. Ann Carson and former BJS Director William J. Sabol, identified two principal contributing factors: Between 1993 and 2013, more older prisoners were serving longer sentences for violent offenses, and more older people were sent to prison.
The proportion of older prisoners In state correctional facilities serving time for violent offenses, such as murder and sexual assault was also higher than prisoners in younger age groups. For instance, in 2013, some 48 percent of those 55 or older were serving sentences for murder, nonnegligent manslaughter or sexual assault, compared to nearly a third (31 percent) of prisoners ages 45 to 54 — and more than a quarter (27 percent) of those ages 35 to 44.
Other findings include:
- Prison admissions for people 55 and older increased by 82 percent between 1993 and 2013.
- 40 percent of state prisoners aged 55 or older on December 31, 2013, had been imprisoned for at least 10 years, up from nine percent in 1993.
- The mean sentence length for prisoners older than 55 was 82 months in 2014, higher than that of 18- to 39-year-old prisoners (69 months) and that of 40- to 54-year-old prisoners (71 months).