Paroling the elderly and sick could be the best way to deal with the cost and overcrowding of he prisons. There is a large number of inmates who are elderly and have served half their sentence or more. Even though this is a good idea there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. The most important of these factors is community safety. In this paper, we will discuss the arguments for and against keeping sick and older adult prisoners in jail.
With the rising cost of medical care for the more elderly and chronically ill in the prison system the state has to find a way to bring down costs. One of the ways they are trying to accomplish this is by reviewing and modifying the compassionate release Law. Through this law, prisoners are considered for early release or modification of sentence because of age and or illness. Wisconsin is one of the many states that is suffering from financial constraints of maintaining its prison population. Wisconsin’s inmate population increased by 14 percent from 2000 to 2007 and the State Corrections budget rose by 71 percent from 1999 to 2005.
Health care costs for adult prisoners in Wisconsin rose from $2.8.5 million to $87.6 million from 1898 to 2005. It estimates that the cost of providing medical care for older prisoners will to $25 billion from 2009 to 2019 (O’Meara. 2010).
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These rising costs are calling for a reviewing by Wisconsin and other states of the correctional system’s early release programs for the elderly and ill inmates. One of the reasons for this reconsideration is a change in the standards of compassionate release law for prisoners in state correctional facilities. The new change expands the category of eligibility for sentence modification and streamlines the procedure. Much-reviewing needs to be done in regards to this law.
To many it may sound like this is the best solution to bring down costs of correctional facilities. Even though it may bring prices down in prisons, it may bear the financial burden to the families and communities to which they are released. When these prisoners are released, they will most likely have no form of employment and may be too old or too sick for work. Many states and cities are feeling the financial strain because of the rise in unemployment. It is hard enough for law abiding citizens of any age to get a job, so the releasing more jobless individuals is an added burden to communities. The families who these prisoners come home also to face the added financial burden of having to care and provide for the elderly or sick relative. More government funds would then have to allocate to these communities help with the added costs of housing and the medical care of these released prisoners. Milwaukee, for example, is recognized as a city suffering from poverty. A recent study in the past forty years has revealed that economically no other city has fallen as fast, far, or hard as Milwaukee. In nearly every social index, Milwaukee falls to the bottom of the list.
Recent studies have also shown that Milwaukee has a high rate of unemployed Blacks and Hispanics (O’Meara, 2010).
The State Department of Corrections spent more that $27 million a year to care for inmates in extended supervision that includes goods, care, and services. Extended supervision is a way to extend something like parole so that older or ill prisons can complete sentence outside prison walls. An additional amount of $5 million was requested and denied by Wisconsin’s Legislature. The denial of these funds may end up costing the state more because it may either make compassionate release practically impossible in many inmates’ cases or lead families already having financial difficulties in even more distress. The high costs of keeping the elderly and ill incarcerated and the burden on families and communities they are released to are two issues that need to be taken into consideration. The Department of Corrections needs to work more closely with communities to figure out a way to benefit both sides.
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The release of elderly and ill inmates is the one thing that makes the most sense because the elderly are people that have served most of their time. It serves no purpose to keep them there until they die. Because they are elderly, they suffer from a number of illnesses that cost the state millions yearly in medical care. There are many inmates that are old and frail and may need constant medical assistance. Releasing the elderly and ill will also help in reducing some of the overcrowding of the prisons. Community leaders have to work with the prisons and reach out to their communities to make the transition for these inmates as cost efficient as possible. Members of communities can help by providing the programs and services that will be needed for them and the families they may be released to. The reality of this argument is that the society has to exhibit some compassion even for those who have broken its laws. The costs of health care in the prisons will rise well above the billions by the year 2019. In order to start reducing the cost states are considering modifying the Compassionate Release Law by puting the burden of proof on the inmates.
In doing this, the inmate has to prove to the medical community that it would serve the public interest for them to be released under continued supervision. Compassion is seen here because in this way those inmates that are elderly, sick or dying can spend last days on outside or hospital. It may seem like the costs are just being diverted to the communities and families. In the long run, it saves money all around because for the most part the corrections is not paying for housing, 24-hour care or feeding of these released prisoners.
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There is a reason the Compassionate Law has its name and compassion is what they expect society to show the elderly and ill even though they are in prison. The costs of medically caring for the elderly and sick inmates is astronomical, and it will just keep rising if we do not find a way to deal with this issue. The coming together of prisons and communities to help with this crisis is the best way to find a solution. The communities that take on these inmates will be faced with added financial and medical burden. Working together and showing compassion even when one may think they do not deserve it is what will help to the Laws overall success.
O’Meara G. J., 2010 Compassion and the Public Interest: Wisconsin’s New
Compassionate Release Legislation, Retrieved from Week 5 Federal Reserve Reading http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/docview/757687257/fulltextPDF?accountid=35812