Incarcerating the Elderly

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The issue being discussed in this paper will be “the issue of the ‘graying’ of the American prison and parole population and the unique problems that elderly prisoners face while incarcerated and subsequent to release” (Stojkovic, 2007, pg. 98). Incarceration of elderly criminals is a highly debated topic in criminal justice. The definition of elderly criminal in this case will be a person 60 years or older that commits a criminal offense. This is not a new topic; however, there is not a lot of research conducted on elderly offenders. There are many arguments as to whether these elderly criminals should be treated the same as younger criminals and whether it is cost effective to put the elderly in prison. This paper will discuss the pros and cons of incarcerating the elderly.

First, the pros of incarcerating the elderly criminals will be discussed. Contrary to popular belief that after a certain age criminals stop committing crime, the age of elderly offenders ranged from 60 to 99 years old which shows that no matter how old someone is they may still commit crime. Also, 86.36 percent of elderly offenders knew their victim personally (Patel 442). This is a scary statistic for friends and family that are close with elderly criminals. The first pro for incarcerating the elderly is that in a study conducted between 2006 and 2010 rape against young females was found in 31 percent of the elderly incarcerated, 36 percent of elderly incarcerated were found guilty of murder or attempted murder, and 4 percent were found guilty of selling minor girls (Patel 443). This shows that they are dangerous criminals no matter what age they are. The people that argue that elderly people are harmless are clearly wrong. Rape and murder are some of the most serious crimes in society; if someone is able to commit such crimes they are able to serve time for those crimes. Furthermore, because society is aging more and more, criminals are committing serious crimes at an older age. Years ago, the average life span of the human race was not as high as it is today, which could be a reason why we have a problem of the elderly being in prison. With the aging society people are also staying more active into the later years of their lives making it just as easy to commit a crime as an elder. Moreover, in the later years of life, mental and physical health begins to fail which means that the brain is not in the shape it used to be and judgment as well as morals can be impaired so elderly may commit crimes because they do not know any better (Patel 444). These criminals need to be locked up for the safety of society. They will continue to commit crime if they are not punished as harshly as others.

The typical elderly offender lives alone, has little or no contact with their family and is going through financial trouble (Patel 444). For these offenders going to prison for their crimes may be the only solution to reducing elderly crimes. As discussed in class, sometimes sex offenders are released after their sentence is up and in some states, they are sent to civil confinement depending on how dangerous they may be. Not all states have this program to help “treat” the offenders, but it shows they are still deemed dangerous enough to be confined in a guarded facility. By time they are released from prison and make it through this program, if they make it through the program that is, they have aged greatly. In the video showed in class, all of the three men interviewed were elderly and still in civil confinement, which shows that society agrees that the elderly can and will be incarcerated.

An offender that has committed a crime should be incarcerated regardless of their age. The laws are applicable to every person that commits a crime and is proven guilty. A person that is charged or was previously charged for murder or any other crime should be serving their full sentence for that charge. A criminal is still a criminal, whether they are...
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