As prisoners age, there are fewer hands to work on the vast farm that has traditionally fed the 5,000 inmates at Louisiana’s Angola prison, reports The Town Talk of Alexandria, La. In the past, 1,000 inmates worked the fields. Warden Burl said he's lucky if 600 to 700 are physically able to do the job. A third of all inmates are older than 50, and many are so debilitated that the state spends north of $100,000 per inmate to care for them. “This place was not built to accommodate people like this,” Cain said.
The fiscal, legal, social and political challenges of housing this country's graying inmates have arrived at the time when states and the federal government are looking to rein in spending. A problem swelling for decades has become “a national epidemic,” according to a 2012 report by the American Civil Liberties Union. Yet efforts to address the issue have largely floundered, ensuring that even incapacitated inmates ridden with tumors or paralyzed by Parkinson's disease live their last days in prison hospitals. Nearly a quarter-million inmates in state and federal prisons are now classified as “elderly” or “aging.”