VA, Like Other States, Faces Challenges With Aging Inmates


A major public-safety initiative of Virginia Bob McDonnell is to help inmates re-enter their communities and reduce the number who wind up back in prison. The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes that Marla Decker, McDonnell’s public safety secretary, says, “We can start looking at what [inmates] need early on so that when it’s time to release them, we don’t have the difficult problems that we’re now facing upon release, particularly on the geriatric side.”

Keith Davis, warden of a prison where many elderly inmates are housed, said, “In some cases, literally – not just figuratively, but literally – they do not have a bridge to live under. What are we going to do with those people?” Often, older inmates and/or sex offenders have outlived their families or are estranged from them. Nursing homes and other facilities are reluctant to take them, even if they have Medicaid. Families initially willing to take them sometimes find they are unable to cope. A major problem is the lack of long-term beds in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for Medicaid recipients, the only coverage most released prisoners have. Also, said one official, “trying to get a nursing home or an assisted-living facility to accept a sex offender is extremely difficult.”

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