New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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Elderly prisoners are twice as expensive to incarcerate as the average prisoner and pose little danger to society, yet the population of elderly prisoners in the United States is exploding. Our extreme sentencing policies and a growing number of life sentences have effectively turned many of our correctional facilities into veritable nursing homes — and taxpayers are paying for it.

This increasing warehousing of aging prisoners for low-level crimes and longer sentences is a nefarious outgrowth of the “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies of the 1980s and 1990s. Given the nation’s current overincarceration epidemic and persistent economic crisis, lawmakers should consider implementing parole reforms to release those elderly prisoners who no longer pose sufficient safety threats to justify their continued incarceration.

A new ACLU report, “At America's Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly,” makes a number of data-driven findings and issues recommendations for reform.

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mass incarceration, elderly prisoners, aging prisoners, sentencing reform, parole reform, criminal justice, fiscal analysis, state budgets