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Indiana’s Aging Prison Population Presents Health Care Challenges

Bryon Bradley, a diminutive, bespectacled, 43-year-old with a mild
disposition, was making his daily rounds in the prison infirmary. Bradley
shuffled from bed to bed, checking on his patients before stopping in front of
Jerald Jessup, a frail 74-year-old wearing an orange knit cap. The tall, rangy
septuagenarian, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and uses
a wheelchair, was undecided about rec. The two are joined in an uncommon
hospice program at Wabash Valley Correctional Institute in Carlisle in which
prisoners take care of other, terminally ill, inmates. Since it began three
years ago, inmate volunteers have guided 50 dying convicts to their graves.

Indiana's prison population is aging. There currently are 877 inmates who are
60 years of age and older, or 3.6 percent of all prisoners. Fifteen years ago,
only 256 prisoners were 60 or older. The oldest male prisoner is 84 and the
oldest female is 80. In Indiana, 13.5 percent of state and federal inmates are
in that age group, according to the report. Similarly, in prisons across the
country, a record number of the nation’s nearly 3 million convicts are elderly.
A 2012 American Civil Liberties Union report estimates about 246,000 inmates
are age 50 or older. Experts say longer prisons terms and mandatory minimum
sentencing have loaded cell blocks with inmates who use canes and walkers,
wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks. And they are expensive to house. The ACLU study
and another by the National Institute of Corrections shows it costs between two
and three times as much to care for a prisoner over age 50 than it does other

Source/more: Indianapolis Star

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