Chronically ill man walking

Can I leave now?
Can I leave now?

(Aging inmate population takes toll on prisons; Harsh sentencing of 1980s, 1990s didn’t foresee health care) announces the Boston Globe headline. I’ve been reading a story like this every year or two for the past 10 years. It’s kind of pathetic: cold blooded killers now incontinent, motor cycle gang members with “special medical boots” for a foot condition, etc.

Some prisons have needed to set up geriatric wards, while others have effectively been turned into convalescent homes.

The aging of the prison population is driving health care costs being borne by American taxpayers. The Bureau of Prisons saw health care expenses for inmates increase 55 percent from 2006 to 2013, when it spent more than $1 billion…

‘‘Our federal prisons are starting to resemble nursing homes surrounded with razor wire,’’ said Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. ‘‘It makes no sense fiscally, or from the perspective of human compassion, to incarcerate men and women who pose no threat to public safety and have long since paid for their crime. We need to repeal the absurd mandatory minimum sentences that keep them there.’’

I agree that the “War on Drugs” has put far too many people in prison for far too long. That sentiment seems to be getting more popular. If revulsion at high medical spending for prisoners helps some people come around to a less draconian view of sentencing, so much the better.

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

May 12, 2015

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