Graying Prisoners

From:  New York Times
Aug 18th 2013, 
By Jamie Fellner, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, focusing on criminal justice in the United States.

MORE and more United States prisons resemble nursing homes with bars, where the elderly and infirm eke out shrunken lives. Prison isn’t easy for anyone, but it is especially punishing for those afflicted by the burdens of old age. Yet the old and the very old make up the fastest-growing segment of the prison population.

Today, the New York State Board of Parole is scheduled to decide whether to give medical parole to Anthony D. Marshall, who was convicted of stealing from his mother, Brooke Astor. Mr. Marshall is 89 and suffers from Parkinson’s and congestive heart failure. His lawyers say he cannot stand or dress himself. He is one of at least 26,100 men and women 65 and older incarcerated in state and federal prisons, up 62 percent in just five years.

Owing largely to decades of tough-on-crime policies — mandatory minimum sentences, “three strikes” laws and the elimination of federal parole — these numbers are likely to increase as more and more prisoners remain incarcerated into their 70s and 80s, many until they die.

I try to imagine my 90-year-old father in prison. His body and mind whittled by age, he shuffles, takes a painful eternity to get up from a chair and forgets the names of his grandchildren.

How would he fare climbing in and out of an upper bunk bed? Would he remember where his cell was in the long halls of many prisons? How would his brittle bones cope with a thin mattress and blanket in a cold cell in winter, or his weak heart with the summer heat. If he had an “accident,” would someone help him clean up? Unlike Mr. Marshall, some older inmates committed violent crimes, and there are people who think such prisoners should leave prison only “in a pine box.”


Read the rest here.

Dying inside: The elderly in prison


Plan to spend about 20 minutes weeping, if you tune into this documentary on aging in US prisons. Thank you, Jeremy Young and Al Jazeera.

———————-from Al Jazeera—————————-

Our program has aired and is finally up online—it is titled “Dying Inside: Elderly in Prison”. Here is the link to the show, please let me know your thoughts and feedback:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvqj8hgxRfg


If you toggle the settings on you tube from 360 to 720 and you have a strong internet connection the quality of the video is very vivid. Please feel free to share the video with whomever.

Many thanks to all of those people that helped us out along the way….your contributions are greatly appreciated!

Jeremy Young

Al Jazeera English- The Americas

1627 K Street, 11th Floor

Washington, D.C. 20006

Work- 202.496.4543

Cell- 202.651.1632

al Jazeera English: Dying inside: Elderly in Prison

Part 2:

This was aired on Al Jazeera English, from June 5th 2010:

The US’ massive prison population is getting older.

Long sentences that were handed out decades ago are catching up with the American justice system.

Prisons across the country are dedicating entire units just to house the elderly.

During difficult economic times, the issue has hit a crisis point. Estimates are that locking up an older inmate costs three times as much as a younger one.

How are prisons dealing with this issue? Who are the prisoners that are turning gray behind bars?

Josh Rushing gains exclusive and unprecedented access to jails and prisons across the country to tell the story.