California’s expanding prison population and the increasing average age of its inmates are key factors in the debate over whether the state should spend $7 billion to build medical units for a prison health care system that has been ruled unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. The money has been sought by a federal court receiver who has been placed in charge of medical care in the state’s 33 adult prisons.
One inmate 86, is serving a life sentence after being convicted of a “third strike” for stealing candy and cheese from a grocery store. He is in prison coping with the final stages of terminal liver disease. Older inmates cost two to three times to incarcerate as younger ones, an average $98,000 to $138,000 a year. Between 1980 and 2007, the average age of California inmates rose from 27 to 37. Officials say inmates age faster than the general population because of stress, a history of drug use, poor medical care throughout their lives and other factors.