5 questions answered about Ohio’s aging jail population

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The state prison system is staring directly at a new multi-million dollar problem. News Center 7's I-Team is looking at the growing number of older inmates and what their medical needs costs. Jim Otte was at a start prison in Columbus and discussed the costs of aging inmates and how the state is ...

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Can you be too old for jail? The aging prison population presents health care issues and other costly problems. News Center 7 investigates the concern for taxpayers and the proposal causing some controversy Thursday, Nov. 1, beginning at 5 p.m.

There are more than 7,000 people serving life sentences in Ohio, and they eventually all grow old. The costly burden of caring for aging inmates has some critics calling for reform to cut taxpayer costs.

Here are five questions answered about the aging prison population in Ohio:

1. Is this a problem nationwide?

Yes. “From 1999 to 2016, the number of people 55 or older in state and federal prisons increased 280 percent,” according to a report from the Pew Trusts. “During the same period, the number of younger adults grew merely 3 percent. As a result, older inmates swelled from 3 percent of the total prison population to 11 percent.”

Ohio’s oldest prison inmates: Who are they, and what did they do?

2. Why is it costly to care for aging inmates?

Older inmates require more health care, facilities need to be adapted with wider doors for wheelchairs and officers need additional training on protecting elderly prisoners.

3. How much does the state spend on medical care?

Ohio’s tab for prison medical care had been declining but is now on the rise. The state spent $192.69 million on prison medical care in fiscal year 2017, up from $176.3 million and $172.4 million in the two previous years.

4. Why don’t prisons release aging inmates?

In late 2011, Ohio lawmakers required the parole board to evaluate all 347 parole-eligible inmates aged 65 and older for possible expedited release, but none were fast-tracked. In a report, the board said the convicts remained dangerous, failed to complete rehabilitative programming or show remorse, had previously violated parole, or committed crimes so vile that it would be an injustice to let them out of prison.

5. What do correction officers think?

Corrections Officer Tamitri Rogers said working in a prison hospital is completely different than working in a prison. “Here you learn to serve your customers with respect and empathy,” Rogers said. “It’s not so much control, control, control.”

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