The ACLU today released a comprehensive new report titled, "At America's Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly." The report shines a light on the skyrocketing number of elderly inmates in federal and state prisons and questions whether the public safety benefit justifies the high economic cost. (Spoiler alert: It doesn't.) From the report:
The United States keeps elderly men and women locked up despite an abundance of evidence demonstrating that recidivism drops dramatically with age. For example, in New York, only 7% of prisoners released from prison at ages 50-64 returned to prison for new convictions within three years. That number drops to 4% for prisoners age 65 and older. In contrast, this number is 16% for prisoners released at age 49 and younger. Further, most aging prisoners are not incarcerated for murder, but are in prison for low-level crimes. For example, in Texas, 65% of prisoners age 50 and older are incarcerated for nonviolent drug, property, and other nonviolent crimes. This increasing warehousing of aging prisoners for low-level crimes and longer sentences is a nefarious outgrowth of the “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies of the 1980s and 1990s. Given the nation’s current overincarceration epidemic and persistent economic crisis, lawmakers should consider implementing parole reforms to release those elderly prisoners who no longer pose sufficient safety threats to justify their continued incarceration.
In addition to detailing this growing problem, the report proposes some tangible solutions for policymakers, including - our favorite - eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. The 100+ page report is accompanied by a slideshow and a short video. Check it out.