The New York State prison at Fishkill specializes in dementia-related conditions in a 30-bed unit that is a first for New York and possibly the nation, says the Associated Press. As long as they behave, patients can wander from their rooms to the day room. “They’re still in prison,” said Fishkill superintendent William Connolly. “This is just a unique environment within a prison environment.” The average age of patients is 62, or 26 years above the systemwide average. All have been diagnosed with some level of dementia, which in the case of some patients is related to Alzheimer’s or AIDS. One has Parkinson’s disease and another has Huntington’s disease. Some have additional psychiatric or medical disorders.
The average age of New York prisoners is climbing. Inmates 50 and over accounted 3 percent of the prison population two decades ago; it was 11 percent last year. Nationwide, the number of prisoners over age 50 in state and federal prisons is rising at about 8 percent a year, said sociologist Ronald Aday, author of “Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections.”