The High Cost of Incarcerating the Elderly and Infirm in the Massachusetts Prison System


I know that the men and women in prison are there because they committed serious crimes.  They are being punished not only because they are away from family and friends, but they also live with the horror of their transgressions.  So they should; their victims do.  However, many of these offenders are elderly and are no more a threat to public safety.  It is costing the Massachusetts taxpayers dearly to keep these elderly incarcerated.  Is there a better alternative?

According to the 2013 Department of Correction Annual Report, medical care for prisoners cost Massachusetts taxpayers $98,520,685.  By 2015 the figure is expected to exceed $ 100,000,000.  Massachusetts state officials estimate that the state will need to build separate, specialized long term care units for the chronically ill and disabled for at least 600.  These people are severely disabled with illness.  They have debilitating chronic diseases.

The current trajectory on this critical issue is economically infeasible and morally untenable.  Something has to give.  Any ideas?

Here's a few:

  •  release those who pose no risk to society into supervised medical care
  • develop an Assisted Daily Living Care facility for the incarcerated
  • train and utilize life and long term prisoners as basic health care providers to care for the elderly
  • support legislation that calls for supervised medical release of prisoners suffering from chronic illness.  Contact your local State Representatives to request that they support medical release legislation.
Yes, it is true that many years ago some offenders committed serious crimes.  Many of these now elderly and infirm men and women have paid dearly for those transgressions through years of incarceration.  Today, an ever growing number of these former offenders are very ill, dying, and need specialized care that prisons are not equipped to handle.  They are not capable of hurting anyone and pose no threat to society, any longer.  The situation needs to be addressed.

This information was put together by the Norfolk Lifers Group.  You may contact them at 

Norfolk Lifers Group
P.O. Box 43
Norfolk, MA  02056


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