An ever-growing aging inmate population means more Missouri prisoners are likely to die behind bars in the coming years. Against that backdrop, the Missouri Department of Corrections is seeking bids from funeral homes across the state in a search for the best deal on burial and cremation services for prisoners, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The state wants the cheapest wood box and the most inexpensive grave liners, to cut down on an expense that cost taxpayers $62,000 last year. While the department typically notifies inmate families when a prisoner dies, not all want the body nor can afford the expense of burial or cremation.
In such cases and when a prisoner has no family, the state pays for disposing of the remains. Under the current set-up, arranging a burial is left to local prison officials, who work with a local funeral home. The state wants to formalize that process in hopes of reducing the overall cost. With more than 32,000 inmates, Missouri’s prison population has more than doubled since 1990. Much of that increase comes from the rise of long, mandatory sentences. Last year, 104 Missouri inmates died behind bars. Of those, the remains of 55 were not claimed by family. That number could increase. There are 1,415 incarcerated offenders over age 60. The oldest is James Alexander, 92, who is serving a 20-year term for a rape he committed at age 88. In Texas, the state operates a cemetery for inmates. In Louisiana, inmates make coffins in which to bury fellow prisoners who have died.