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Release Older Inmates To Save Money?

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Video published December 11, 2009 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: Joanne Faryon, KPBS reporter and host of "Project Envision," introduces an ongoing investigation into aging behind bars.

— Elderly inmates are among the fastest growing segments of California’s prison population. Inmates over age 55 have doubled in number over the past 10 years and will more than double again by 2022, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Older inmates are two to three times more expensive to incarcerate then their younger counterparts because they require more health care services, according to the LAO.

Currently, California spends $10 billion a year on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which makes up 10 percent of its general fund. If the state, under current sentencing laws, continues to send more people to prison longer, can it afford the costs of housing, health care, and eventually hospice care?

The state of California is under federal court order to reduce its prison population by 27 percent, or about 40,000 inmates, because prisons are so overcrowded they violate prisoners’ constitutional rights. Considering older inmates are statistically less likely to re-offend, the LAO suggests releasing older inmates to save money.

Would you consider releasing non-violent elderly inmates from California prisons?


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