“Old Behind Bars” Report Outlines Dilemmas Facing State and Federal Government to House Burgeoning Population of Geriatric and Special Needs Inmates

Incarcerated people aged 65 and older are straining state and federal prison facilities in ways that go beyond the staggering costs of medical care alone. In a just-released report by Human Rights Watch, the number of men and women in that age group that are serving sentences grew at 94 times the rate of the overall prison population from 2007-2010.

The 104-page report outlines a number of factors that have lead to this trend with data collected from 24 states and from the federal corrections system. Jamie Fellner, senior advisor to the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, describes the daunting challenges the unprepared prison staff face trying to adapt longstanding security measures in austere environments that have become improvised managed care and hospice facilities. “Prison staff who work with the elderly know it makes no sense to yell at a prisoner who doesn’t understand what they are saying,” Fellner points out.

Working with special needs populations in a corrections environment also requires unique furniture solutions. “Norix has consulted with staff and medical practitioners to create furniture for special needs inmates, including ADA compliant detention furniture. Products must be easily cleaned, have safe rounded edges, ample back support and easy egress. All while maintaining the safety, security and durability required in a mixed population corrections environment,” says Norix Product Solution Manager Brad Karl.

Norix ADA table

The Norix Oasis table’s wide 17” seats, supportive backs and easy access swivel mechanism goes beyond typical detention furniture to serve the unique needs of the aging prison population. ADA version pictured.

Norix ADA shower seat

The institutional grade Norix stainless steel ADA shower seat is uniquely suited for the safety and security requirements of a corrections environment.


In an article by Associated Press writer David Crary published in the Aiken Standard (North Carolina), 5 states have undertaken pivotal courses of action to meet the needs of elderly and disabled inmates, but not without criticism.

Read the HRW news article and connect to the report.

How do you feel about the issues surrounding state and federal governnments in handling the older population in correctional facilities? Is the “old behind bars” report an issue that your facility faces? Be sure to share, retweet and like this post with others who are interested in this issue.

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  1. Kate Reese February 13, 2012 / Reply

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