Recreation-of-Martin-Luther-Kings-Cell-in-Birmingham-Jail-National-Civil-Rights-Museum-Downtown-Memphis-Tennessee-USA-by-Adam-JonesWe all age (some better than others). But what happens to those who age in prison? We usually think of prisoners as young but there is an increasing number of 65 and older prisoners in the system. Aging men and women are the most rapidly growing group in US prisons. The number of sentenced state and federal prisoners age 65 or older grew at 94 times the rate of the overall prison population between 2007 and 2010. The number of sentenced prisoners age 55 or older grew at six times the rate of the overall prison population between 1995 and 2010 (1)

The question is what to do with older prisoners? How can we humanely address their needs? The Texas prison system has about 300 beds statewide for sick and mentally ill inmates, as well as two prison hospital facilities, in Texas City and Huntsville, but these facilities were not specifically designed to care for the needs of the elderly.  Older prisoners who are frail, have mobility, hearing, and vision impairments, and are suffering chronic, disabling, and terminal illnesses or diminishing cognitive capacities may have difficulties functioning in these facilities (1).

States are considering radical alternatives to prison hospital facilities for elderly convicts.  Some consider early release to a family home, while some states use private nursing homes (2). Regardless of the method for the delivery of care, carefully thought must be given to ensure that we are appropriately treating those who are incarcerated and ageing.

This week’s Guest Blogger is Amanda W. Scarbrough, PhD, MHSA. Healthcare Administration Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services and Promotion, Sam Houston State University.



Image Source: Photograph by Adam Jones, released for public. Accessed at:

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

Past Posts: We have addressed the issues surrounding the aging population in US prisons twice before:

  1. Feb 3, 2012 – Al Capone is Old and Sick and in Jail –
  2. May 31, 2013 – Growing Old in Prison –