Sonia’s Response to the Elderly in Prison and other thoughts

This week’s readings were fairly depressing. To begin, geriatrics in general in this country is not a focus of medicine as very few doctors choose to specialize in it. The principle stays accurate when applied to institutions like prisons and nursing homes as the populations of aged adults is overlooked and pushed to the back. I actually don’t know how I feel about the Elderly Sentence Adjustment Bill as there can be arguments for both sides but I would lean towards supporting the bill because of my letters. It’s so different to read the article, “Studying Older Offenders” engaging plenty of statistics and a letter from someone pleading for their life back. Although the article was beneficial in providing an overview of just how many prisoners over 50 are flooding the prisons, there is not much of an argument to be made in regards to early releases other than lack of adequate resources to support them all. I don’t think there should be any early release that is dependent solely on age, but rather age should be the factor that lets one be considered—then there should be some kind of formula comparing the amount served to the amount left and the particular crime. There are so many factors to be considered, and I understand that already there are not enough resources to accurately investigate every individual and their motives and personalities, but it is their life. Just reading one of the letters sent shivers down my back as a woman was 22 when she was convicted of 2 armed robberies and has just finished 20 years of a 90 year sentence. She has obtained multiple degrees while incarcerated and taken advantage of every program offered. By the time she is technically released, she would be 112 years old and that is so scary to think about. She is hopeful and ended her letter very powerfully stating that she is a new woman who would one day like to be a mother and the daughter, aunt, and sister that she could not be before. So, it is fairly clear that she has made an attempt to reform, and although nobody knows if she would be tempted to commit robbery again, it is important to at least consider her life as significant and important. It is not so much that I think the system is wrong to have even put her in prison; I think the system is under too much stress to give all prisoners a chance to be reevaluated accurately. There are so many steps and so many failures that hopelessness seems very understandable as I saw in another one of my letters.
The article, “Adjustment to Prison Life” explained the situation of new elderly offenders and that was very interesting. I guess I did not really consider people being convicted in their late 50’s, but it makes sense that there is a great population convicted of violent crimes like murder and sex crimes and they have a whole new dilemma of adjustment considering the hopelessness of long term sentences. Broken families, loneliness, lost reputations, medical problems and inability to integrate into the prison system led by a younger generation of convicts would make it very difficult. Yet contrasting the population that cannot adjust is a population that would rather be in prison than on the outside. If I hadn’t seen Shawshank Redemption, this concept would be very difficult for me to grasp. I just don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be so excited to be released, but it makes sense if after 50 years of uncontrollable dependence, they are thrown out in the world with nowhere to go. Even in one of my letters, one 51 year old man is scheduled for release next May and he is scared of where he is going to parole to. He says he cannot return to Chicago as that is where his crime of murdering a child molester that got him into prison took place 20 years earlier. He asked if our agency or group had any sort for newly released prisoners. In the article, it was stated that many prisoners appreciate the fact that their medications are always provided and it is of no cost to them. Another prisoner said that the medical care was not as bad as everyone made it out to be. Yet regardless, inherently, I agree with the prisoner who was quoted in “Aging Prisoners” who said “To keep a man in prison when you know he’s going to die, when his chances of being a threat to society are long passed…I’m scared to death of that” He described the 8 inmates that can always be found lying in the back of the hospital waiting to die. That is a miserable ending and so sad to think about.

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One Response

  1. I think the debate about releasing elderly prisoners early is such a hot topic and it is so difficult to decide what side i would stand on. However, I think I would be on the side of early release, because just like Sonia the letters have really gotten to me. I don’t want to appear naive but I think that over time people can change for the better and learn from their mistakes. I feel that anyone being in prison for numerous years, if released, would never want to go back. They would do anything to make sure they wouldnt have to return to prison. I think once entered back into society, most elderly prisoners would want to get better, but they need support and help along the way.

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