Increasing Cost of Elder Care in the Carceral Setting is Straining Budgets

With the 50+ prison population increasing, costs for long-term care of inmates with a chronic disease are rising.

According to a Route-Fifty article, older adults are being incarcerated at higher rates and their cost of care is twice as much as younger inmates, as shown in a Prison Policy Initiative study cited in the article. State prisons are the primary location where individuals are housed serving long-term sentences, often more than twelve to eighteen months, and those facilities are feeling the effects of this shift.

There is currently no standard definition for elder adults in the corrections system specifically, but generally prisons have a typically lower age than expected. According to the article states use different designations in the range of 50 to 65. This lower number is attributed to the often accelerated needs of individuals being incarcerated. Inmates often experience various types of resource scarcity before incarceration and that can lead to negative behaviors and health outcomes while serving time. For instance, an individual who has difficulty gaining access to health services, might turn to illicit drug use for relief.

“This definition of old age in prisons is based on evidence that the health-related needs of prison residents are advanced by around 10 years, relative to people in the general population,” he said. “For example, a 50-year-old in prison would have the health care needs typically associated with a 60-year-old in the general community.”

To address the issue, some facilities are actually training younger inmates to care for older ones and setting up specified geriatric units to more efficiently address the needs of the group as a specialized segment. Other facilities have responded to the strain on resources by establishing policies that help older individuals avoid long-term incarceration all together as well as advocating for early release. But in order to keep them from returning, access to and utilization of healthcare in the community is vital.

Read the full Route-Fifty article.