A study released by NBC News on Saturday revealed the cost of tending to elderly prisoners: a shocking $16 billion in taxpayer money.
In Georgia, the average medical cost for an individual prisoner over age 65 is $8,565 — a stark contrast to the $961 spent on prisoners under age 65.
In North Carolina, prisoners over age 50 cost the state four times as much as its younger imprisoned population.
An even more surprising statistic revealed that Michigan spends $40,000 in health care costs on every person who is 80 years of age or older.
The price of providing health care is expected to rise as baby boomers age. By 2030, one-third of the U.S. prison population is expected to 65 or older.
“The number of elderly prisoners has absolutely exploded,” said Inimai Chettiar, director at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Chettiar cited over criminalization of historically low-priority offenses as one cause of the growing population.
Tina Maschi, a Fordham University professor who has studied the aging New Jersey prison population, noted that prison life is exceptionally stressful and often encourages physical deterioration. Maschi added that prison life often quickens preexisting conditions — notably, the U.S. prison population has a higher rate hearing loss and dementia than the non-convict U.S. population.
Advocacy groups have proposed several alternatives, including offering parole to non-threatening prisoners with low re-offense rates.
Director of ACLU’s National Prison Project David Fathi noted that elderly prisoners often fall into such a category.
"Elderly prisoners are generally past their crime-prone years,” he said.