Magazine article Corrections Forum

Aging & Chronic Care

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Aging & Chronic Care

Article excerpt

Thousands of inmates are Baby Boomers, and as they age, prisons find themselves having to plan to care for an aging population. Due to lack of regular health care before their incarceration, many inmates age faster than their contemporaries on the outside. So, for example, a 50-year-old inmate may be considered a "senior citizen" and would need to take advantage of the services and facilities for the aging.

Florida, Virginia, New York, and Illinois Departments of Correction (DOC) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), among others, have taken steps to provide for the needs of an aging correctional population.

The Illinois DOC considers each inmate's aging needs and concerns on an as-needed basis, according to Louis Shicker, MD, Illinois DOC Agency medical director. "We do yearly assessments of special needs and they, of course, would be looked at carefully," he notes.

In Virginia, the DOC utilizes Deerfield Correctional Center for its aging male population, and Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women houses elderly female offenders in need of special medical care. Deerfield Correctional Center has 1,080 beds, the assisted living area houses 57 offenders, and the infirmary, 18.

"It is predictable that the number of elderly will continue to increase. The 'graying' of America is not only a 'free-society' phenomenon but one that is occurring in prison populations," says Traylor. "The prison system will increase its need for specialized housing as the demand increases."

Each institution in Florida is responsible for determining whether or not elderly inmates are able to take care of themselves or if assistance is needed. There are two facilities available to house elderly male inmates (Zephyrhills Correctional Institution and South Florida Reception Center) who need assistance with daily living, and one for women (Lowell Correctional Institution).

In New York, Lester Wright, MD, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer, N.Y. DOC, says that inmates aren't dealt with according to their age per se, but rather by their ability to take care of themselves. Some 70-yearold inmates are in very good shape, he says, while some in their 50s are not.

"We keep inmates in the general population as long as they can still function," Wright explains.


New York has five long-term care (LTC) facilities. Illinois has one special needs unit for inmates with additional nursing care needs, at the penitentiary in Dixon, 111., and for the geriatric population if needed. Otherwise, facilities work within their own infirmaries to care for aging inmates. Additionally, there are five designated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) facilities statewide that can be utilized when necessary. ADA sites means that they are approved to handle offenders with disabilities - not just the elderly. They have designated beds that accommodate inmates with special needs, along with bathing and ramp wheelchair requirements. Most also have onsite physical therapy.

The CDCR provides multiple levels of care for California inmates who require assistance. As inmates age, these services are made available as needed on a case-by case basis, says Liz Kanter, Information Officer II, Office of Communications, Outreach, & Legislation, California Prison Health Care Services. There are several facilities for medical issues. The largest is California Medical Facility (CMF) at Vacaville. At CMF, an elder care unit exists to serve geriatric inmate-patients who have special medical needs. A 1,722-bed longterm care facility is being built in Stockton, California, for inmates. It will be 1.2 million square feet, and should be completed by 2013.

Inmates with Special Needs

In addition to LTCs, many correctional facilities also provide hospice care for sick and/or dying inmates. And an Alzheimer's or dementia unit is also often available to state inmates who need it.

One of New York DOCs LTC facilities houses a 30-bed unit for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia patients. …

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