HOUSING AGING PRISONERS COSTS TWICE AS MUCH, SAYS REPORT
A newly released ACLU report says that the average cost to states of housing elderly inmates amounts to twice as much as housing inmates under the age of 50. The report suggests that the growing number of feeble, elderly prisoners, most of whom, who no longer pose a threat to society should be released and turned over to their families for their remaining days.
Here is a clip from the report, which you can download and read here:
This increasing warehousing of aging prisoners for low-level crimes and longer sentences is a nefarious outgrowth of the “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies of the 1980s and 1990s. Given the nation’s current overincarceration epidemic and persistent economic crisis, lawmakers should consider implementing parole reforms to release those elderly prisoners who no longer pose sufficient safety threats to justify their continued incarceration.
State and federal governments spend approximately $77 billion annually to run our penal system. Over the last 25 years, state corrections spending grew by 674%, substantially outpacing the growth of other government spending, and becoming the fourth-largest category of state spending. These corrections costs are mainly spent on incarceration, and incarcerating aging prisoners costs far more than younger ones. specifically, this report
finds that it costs $34,135 per year to house an average prisoner, but it costs $68,270 per
year to house a prisoner age 50 and older. To put that number into context, the average
American household makes about $40,000 a year in income.
States can implement mechanisms to determine which aging prisoners pose little safety
risk and can be released. Releasing many of these individuals will ease the burden on
taxpayers and reunite prisoners with their families to care for them. This report conducts
a fiscal impact analysis detailing the cost savings to states in releasing the average aging
prisoner. While some of these prisoners may turn to the government for their healthcare or
other needs, government expenditures on released aging prisoners will be far cheaper than
the costs of incarcerating them. Based on statistical analyses of available data, this report
estimates that releasing an aging prisoner will save states, on average, $66,294 per year per
prisoner, including healthcare, other public benefits, parole, and any housing costs or tax
CRUCIAL EVIDENCE MISSING IN TEXAS DEATH ROW CASE
The state of Texas finally granted death row inmate, Hank Skinner, a hard-won post-conviction DNA test to include over 40 previously untested items from his 1993 murder case. One of the most important pieces of evidence in the case, a jacket that was photographed exhibiting blood and sweat and that Skinner had always maintained would exonerate him, was lost with no explanation from the state or law enforcement officials.
The Austin Chronicle’s Jordan Smith has the story. Here are some clips:
Among the key pieces of evidence never before tested, and that Skinner has sought access to for more than a decade, is a blood- and sweat-stained windbreaker found near the body of his girlfriend Twila Busby. The windbreaker is now apparently missing. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that finally secures DNA testing in this case, but there remains reason for grave concern,” Skinner’s attorney Rob Owen said in a press statement. “According to the State, every other piece of evidence in this case has been preserved. It is difficult to understand how the State has managed to maintain custody of items as small as fingernail clippings, while apparently losing something as large as a man’s windbreaker. To date, the State has offered no explanation for its failure to safeguard the evidence in this case.”
…The state had objected to the post-conviction DNA testing, arguing before the Court of Criminal Appeals last month that to allow the DNA testing now would be to incentivize defendants charged with capital murder, and facing the death penalty, to delay DNA testing at trial in order to have grounds for a post-conviction death row appeal. That argument did not seem to impress the generally state-friendly CCA and less than a month after the hearing the state reversed its course to agree that, in the interest of justice, Skinner should be allowed access to DNA testing.
CA INMATES GRADUATE CDCR SUBSTANCE ABUSE PEER MENTOR PROGRAM
Twenty-seven inmates at CA State Prison, Solano, received certification to work as substance abuse counselors for other inmates. The Offender Mentor Certification Program, which is a collaboration between the CDCR and the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, in an effort to cost-effectively expand treatment to more California prisoners.
The CDCR Star’s Bill Sessa has the story. Here’s a clip:
All of the inmates chosen for the program had previously addressed their own problems with drug and alcohol use, problems shared by 58 percent of male inmates and 64 percent of females, by completing a Substance Abuse Treatment Program administered by CDCR.
“By addressing their own problems with substance abuse, these inmates are role models and a source of hope for other inmates who also struggle with addiction,” said CDCR Undersecretary Terri McDonald. “When they become fully certified professionals, these graduates will enable the department to expand substance-abuse treatment to more inmates in a cost-effective way, which is especially valuable during these times of lean budgets.”
(WitnessLA reported on an earlier incarnation of this program here.)