As New York’s prison population ages, the state is lagging in its efforts to release elderly and sick inmates, reports City Limits. Nationally, the number of prisoners over age 55 nearly quadrupled from 1995 to 2010, eight times the pace of growth for the total prison population. From 2007 to 2012, while the overall New York State prison population decreased by 11.6 percent, the elderly prisoner population increased by 27.7 percent.
Citing long sentences handed out in the 70s and 80s, City Limits says American prisons now serve as quasi-nursing homes, albeit lacking the long-term care associated with geriatric facilities. The state’s Compassionate Release Program, begun in 1992, aims to reduce the number of elderly and sick in prison. But the process is cumbersome and lengthy, with the majority of eligible inmates dying before release. Elderly inmates are more expensive to incarcerate, costing three to nine times more than younger inmates, depending on the state, according to a Human Rights Watch report.