Missouri takes initiative with an aging inmate program

9 months 3 weeks 5 days ago March 28, 2016 Mar 28, 2016 Monday, March 28 2016 Monday, March 28, 2016 9:15:00 AM CDT in News
By: Josephine Peterson, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Elderly inmates in Missouri now have special enhanced-care units, where younger prisoners take care of the seniors. Every state has an aging prison population,but this program is unique to Missouri, where prisons have taken initiatives quickly to set up the units. 

According to Linda Redford, the director of the Central Plains Geriatric Education Center at the University of Kansas, the younger inmates say they feel like it's a way to pay back for what they've done, and the seniors say having someone there to care for them makes a difference. 

As the amount of Americans serving sentences increases, as does the older prison population. Redford says prisons are not prepared for older people with chronic conditions. These conditions in addition to previous substance abuse or a life of poverty can accelerate the aging process. Prisons have become a place for those who have no other option. 

"Partly, we're in this mess because we emptied out all of our state hospitals for the mentally ill, and guess where they ended up," says Redford. "They ended up in our homeless shelters, dead, or in our prisons."

The federal Bureau of Prisons says health-care expenses have increased 55 percent from 2006-2013, when it cost $1 billion. 

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