Prisoners, 50 years of age and older represent the fastest growing segment in already crowded federal facilities. From 2009 to 2013, their ranks increased by 25 percent to more than 31,000, another unforeseen consequence of draconian sentencing policies. Inmate healthcare costs soared past $1 billion annually. In an era of dramatic cost-cutting and budget shortfalls, prisons are now being forced to set up geriatric wards and in-house treatment centers. Costly prescription drugs, upgraded treatment facilities, dental and medical care, hospice services have driven the cost of housing one geriatric federal prisoner to $60,000 annually. For a general population inmate the figure is $31,000.
“Federal prisons are starting to resemble nursing homes surrounded with razor wire,” insists Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national organization working to reform mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent offenders. “It makes no sense fiscally or from the perspective of human compassion, to incarcerate men and women who pose no threat to public safety and have long since paid for their crime.”