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Florida locking up a growing number of older adults

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Criminal Law

Florida is seeing an increase in the number of older adults it incarcerates. As the population ages, so, too, does the inmate population, with many individuals serving lengthy sentences for crimes committed earlier in life.

This trend raises important questions about how to address the unique needs and challenges faced by older adults in the criminal justice system.

Recognizing the challenges faced by older inmates

Older adults in prison often face a range of physical, mental and health challenges. Many suffer from chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Many such conditions require specialized care and treatment. Additionally, older inmates may experience cognitive decline or dementia. This can further complicate their ability to navigate the complexities of prison life.

The Miami New Times notes that, in 1999, adults over 55 represented just 4% of Florida’s incarcerated population. By 2015, adults over 55 represented 17% of this demographic. Despite the growing population of older adults behind bars, many correctional facilities are unable to meet their needs. Limited access to health care, mental health services and rehabilitative programs can exacerbate existing health issues. It can also increase the risk of recidivism. The aging infrastructure of many prisons may also not be suitable for people with mobility impairments or other age-related disabilities.

Addressing the issue

Addressing the increasing number of older adults behind bars in Florida requires a multifaceted approach. This includes implementing policies and programs prioritizing health care and support services for older inmates, such as geriatric care units. Exploring alternative sentencing options for nonviolent older offenders can also help reduce overcrowding in prisons.

The rising number of older adults behind bars in Florida underscores the need for comprehensive reforms within the criminal justice system. By recognizing the unique needs of older inmates, policymakers can create a more just and humane system for everyone, regardless of age.