FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Diane Balogh
(314) 652-3114, ext. 320
St. Louis, June 13 - Did you know that elderly* prisoners cost twice as much as average prisoners to incarcerate? Today, the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report stating that releasing low-risk elderly prisoners could save the country billions of dollars and still protect public safety. You can see the full report at: www.aclu.org/elderlyprisoners
During the last session of the Missouri legislature, a bill allowing for parole of elderly prisoners passed the House but stalled in the Senate. The bill was part of the larger realization that Missourians are spending too much on an overly expanded prison population. The ACLU of Eastern Missouri hopes to build on this realization, pushing for more access to parole for elderly inmates and other concrete proposals to reduce our prison population. Those recommendations will be presented to the Joint Interim Committee on the Criminal Code when it meets this summer and fall.
Findings from the current national ACLU report include:
* The elderly prisoner population is growing exponentially. By 2030, one-third our prison population will be elderly, amounting to more than 400,000 elderly prisoners; in 1981, only 8,853 state and federal prisoners were elderly. From 1997 to 2006, Missouri’s elderly inmate population grew 195.4%, compared to an overall Missouri prison population growth of 40.74%.
* Elderly prisoners are very expensive. Today, the U.S. spends about $16 billion annually locking up aging prisoners; in 1988, we spent about $11 billion on the entire corrections system. It costs $34,135 per year to house an average prisoner, but $68,270 per year to house a prisoner 50 and older. Releasing elderly inmates would save an average of $66,294 per year.
* The rise in elderly prisoners is due to severe sentencing policies, not increased crime. In 1979, only 2% of aging prisoners nationally had spent more than 20 years behind bars. Today, that percentage is as high as 15% in Mississippi and 25% in Ohio.
* If released, elderly prisoners are unlikely to commit new crimes. As a national average, just 5 to 10 percent of aging prisoners return to prison for any new crime.
To read the full report, view a photo gallery of stunning images by Tim Gruber and watch a video featuring Louisiana warden Burl Cain, go to: www.aclu.org/elderlyprisoners
*Prisoners 50 years or older are considered elderly or aging due to unhealthy conditions prior to and during incarceration.