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Both Sides of the Bars | Aging People in Prison: An Ever-Growing and Alarming Situation

ProducerKhalil Cumberbatch
DescriptionThe American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people, an alarming and ever-growing number of whom are aged men and women who cannot readily climb stairs, haul themselves up to their top bunk, or walk long distances to meals or the pill line. Their old bones suffer from thin mattresses and winter’s cold, and many of them need wheelchairs, walkers, canes, portable oxygen, and hearing aids. They cannot get dressed, go to the bathroom, or bathe without help. And they are incontinent and forgetful, suffering from chronic illnesses. Many are extremely ill and dying. Using data from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Human Rights Watch calculates that the number of sentenced federal and state prisoners who are age 65 or older grew an astonishing 94 times faster than the total sentenced prisoner population between 2007 and 2010. The older prison population increased by 63%, while the total prison population grew by 0.7% during the same period. By 2030, the population of people aged 50 and older is projected to account for one-third of all incarcerated people in the U.S., amounting to a staggering 4,400% increase over a 50-year span. Today's episode will discuss what actions advocates are taking to address this phenomenon. Our guest is Ute Ritz-Deutch, the coordinator of the Ithaca, NY chapter of Amnesty International and the host of the Human Rights and Social Justice Program on WRI Community Radio in Ithaca. Ute teaches at both the State University of NY at Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College, and she frequently lectures on human rights topics, including mass incarceration.
DateDecember 15, 2021