Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger
Those who advocated for longer prison sentences failed to take the Law of Unintended Consequences into consideration. We all know that prisons have become warehouses. There are several areas where the US leads the world. We lead all industrialized nations in infant deaths the first day of life. We lead the world in illegal drug use. In addition, we lead the world in number of people incarcerated.
The US prison population is about 2.3 million, more than any other nation. Those numbers come from a global study of prisons by the International Centre for Prison Studies, London.
China is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison, despite a population of 1.35 billion. (NOTE: That figure does not include political prisoners in administrative detention for “reeducation.”)
The unintended consequences are an aging prison population. Perhaps the for-profit prisons did not count on that glitch in their bottom line. However, prisons at both the state and Federal level are finding themselves running geriatric nursing homes. In 2010, the last year for which we have accurate data, prisoners age 65 or over increased 94 times the rate of the total prison population in the three-year period 2007-2010. During that same three-year period, the total US prison population grew 0.7%.
At the rate we are going, by the year 2030, estimates are that almost a half-million prisoners will be elderly. Most prisons spend an absolute minimum on staffing and patient health. Private prisons find the elderly cutting into their profit margin. Problems not anticipated for younger prisoners are cropping up. What good does it do for a correctional officer to give orders to a prisoner with Alzheimer’s disease? Prisons are not designed for accommodating walkers, wheelchairs and those who may have serious age-related illnesses.