50 the new 30? In prisons, yesby Dara Kam | October 7th, 2009
The Florida Department of Corrections is worried about the aging population of its inmates.
The department has more than 14,000 geriatric inmates, nearly 15 percent of the 100,000-plus prisoners behind bars, DOC officials reported to a Senate committee this morning.
That might seem a bit high, but a sheepish DOC official gave this explanation: the department considers inmates over the age of 50 to be “geriatric.”
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” DOC governmental affairs director Katie Cunningham told the panel – only two of whom are younger than 50. Committee Chairwoman Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, is 48 and Sen. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Boca Raton, is 43.
DOC has special geriatric dorms but wants to add more “old age” beds because the prison population is growing older as more baby boomers enter the system.
Lawmakers are likely to reconsider an idea that went nowhere last year to pare down the number of elderly prisoners: let them go home.
One option would be to make it easier for feeble or terminally ill prisoners to be released so their relatives or someone other than state taxpayers could pick up the tab for their care. That option would only be available to prisoners who aren’t dangerous.