Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections

Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections

Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections

Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections

Synopsis

On the surface, Sylvia Miller has a perfect life. She's married to her college sweetheart, has three great kids, a rewarding career, and wonderful friends. But beneath the appearances, Sylvia is restless. She loves her husband, but wants to see more of the world than their peaceful Michigan town. For years, she's dreamed of the interesting places she wants to visit. Now, their youngest child is grown, and Sylvia is ready for adventure. Left a penniless orphan, David Miller promised himself his family would nev-er know the same humiliation. For twenty-six years, he and Sylvia have lived frugally, saving for the future. Now, Dave is on the brink of a promotion that will ensure their financial security, but Sylvia wants him to retire and travel with her. When Dave refuses, Sylvia decides to go alone. But it's a decision that could cost them much more than money.

Excerpt

When I was a graduate student pursuing concentrations in gerontology and crime and corrections, the topic of aging prisoners became a natural fit for a dissertation topic. I interviewed my first group of aging prisoners in 1975 at a minimum-security special-needs facility in Oklahoma. Little did I know that some twenty-seven years later, I would still be pursuing a topic with the magnitude of societal interest that we find today. As I visit correctional institutions and talk with prison officials and other policymakers, the topic continues to be compelling. Over the years I have interviewed hundreds of aging prisoners and have heard stories about their crimes, families and friends, health issues, and adjustment to prison life. I hope that by relaying some of the stories and information that I have gathered will cause others to find this topic intriguing and worthy of pursuing.

A graying American population and a record number of inmates incarcerated in our jails and prisons are two of the major forces shaping the political and economic landscape of American society. In the next several decades it appears these two realities of American life will become even more pervasive and demand solutions. As we transition into the 21st century, we find ourselves exploring a new frontier, with the elderly serving as pioneers in our health-care system, churches, families, and prisons. A decade or so ago we would never have thought it possible that prison nursing homes would become a necessity. As Hooyman and Kiyak (1999, p. xiv) have so aptly stated, “aging is a complex and fascinating process.” For one thing, aging brings about gradual change in all elements of society . . .

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