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Graying of Massachusetts prisons cries out for a dose of compassion (Boston Globe)

Below is an excerpt from an August 27 editorial published by the Boston Globe calling for compassion for the aging population in our prison system. Prisoners Legal Services’ Staff Attorney Ada Lin is quoted.

The “graying” of the nation’s prison system — and with it the challenges posed by an aging population — is now a well-recognized phenomenon.

“The number of state prisoners age 55 and older has increased by 400 percent from 1993 to 2013, and it is predicted that by 2030, this age group will account for one-third of the US prison population,” according to a 2022 report by the American Bar Association.

“As the US population ages and rates of dementia increase, the prevalence of dementia among those involved in the criminal legal system can also be expected to increase,” it noted.

The demographic time bomb — a function of long prison sentences and mandatory life sentences in the 1980s and 1990s — is about to go off. There is also a body of evidence that prison itself accelerates both the aging process — 55 is considered old in prison years — and the likelihood of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. The latter may well be a function of lack of stimulation in prison, according to a study in the journal Health and Justice.

Read more at the Boston Globe.