4% Recidivism Rate
The national recidivism rate for inmates over 65 is 4%. By comparison, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, About two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years. Within 5 years of release, 84.1% of inmates who were age 24 or younger at release were arrested for a new crime.
Despite the obvious conclusion revealed by these statistics, the percentage of elderly inmates has continued to grow each year. For example, in 2014, approximately 17 percent of New York state’s prison population was 17 percent. Within the next 15 years, it is estimated that one third of the inmates in New York will be elderly.
The cost for imprisonment of aging inmates is extremely prohibitive. The state governments, local communities, and federal government spent over $16 billion last year on imprisonment of inmates over the age of 50. The cost for incarcerating an inmate over the age of 50 is still approximately twice the cost of locking up young inmates.
Our prisons and jails were not designed for elderly inmates. Prison health care cannot accommodate the many health needs of inmates over the age of 60—and certainly not the growing inmate population over the age of 70. Elderly inmates have more complicated health issues which require expensive treatment from physicians and hospitals in the local communities
Present prison dogma is retribution and punishment (sometimes excessive) which can last decades. In the end, not only the aging inmates suffer, but so does society. The exorbitant costs for maintaining the elderly in prison drains dollars from our government budgets. Today many state governments spend more on prisons than on education. If we examine New York once more as an example of this national tragedy, New York spent approximately $20,000 on the annual education of a student and $60,000 a year for the incarceration of the average inmate. The costs for incarcerating an elderly inmate in New York exceeds $100,000 for 12 months.
Studies have shown that elderly inmates are too frail to be any risk to the public, but aging inmates are easy prey for other inmates inside the barbed wire and walls of prisons. It does not make any sense, common, fiscal, and moral to continue a policy of long term incarceration of elderly inmates who have almost a non-existent chance of recidivism.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com
And what are we doing to assure that state legislators, especially those concerned with Public Safety and Corrections Budgets, are made aware of these statistics?
There was a time when Republican stood for representation of the taxpayer. Perhaps that needs to happen again.
Bradley – Your proposal that the government release prisoners once they attain the age of 65 is far too sensible. It’ll unfortunately never happen due to legislators’ obsession with “law and order” and the exorbitant profits to be made within the prison-industrial-hospital complex.
Rick–I agree,the legislators should focus on the prison-industrial-medical complex, but unfortunately they are obsessed with the campaign contributions from this vast complex. I would add that elderly inmate’s releases should consider any danger factor to the public. However, the vast majority of inmates over the age of 65 have usually good record in prison and pose little risk for recidivism. Keep in mind that many of these inmates were convicted for nonviolent crimes.
Founder of prisonpath.com
Law Professor at the University of Reims, France
Wait: many countries are currently raising the retirement age (this is a joke of course!)
This is such important information. We often generalize about recidivism rates. I’ve been involved in reentry and employment for over forty-five years and I had no idea about these statistics. Thanks for posting. I will share them with a lot of other people. I hope policy makers pay attention!
Prisoner Reentry Strategist & Urban Missionary
This was a good article, but the actually source of the statistic (4% over 65…) was not given or was not clear. In order for the formerly incarcerated to have power in the public dialog, we have to be able to provide reliable data in our statistics. How can we use this amazing information with more support and accuracy? Is there a solid source?
Prison Path Founder
The statistics including the 4% recidivism rate for the elderly was derived from, Pew Center on the States. (2011). State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons. Washington, and Chettiar, I., Bunting, W. & Schotter, G. (2012). At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly.