Aging in Prison


The growing population of elderly and aging people in prisons is one of the many effects of mass incarceration over the past 30 years. Mandatory minimum sentence laws instituted in the 1980s have placed many individuals in prison on long-term sentences that are not particularly commensurate with the crimes for which they were convicted. In addition to that problem, one of the issues we’re addressing is that of increasingly difficult parole criteria. In New York State, we have observed that parole boards quite often judge applicants on the seriousness of the original crime and take no account of their demonstrated rehabilitation.

Aging in Prison: Reducing Elder Incarceration and Promoting Public Safety

This policy document, published by the Center for Justice at Columbia University and edited by Samuel Roberts, Associate Professor of History at Columbia University and director for the Institute for Research in African American Studies, is the result of the 2014 symposium hosted by the Mailman School of Public Health/Columbia University and organized by the Center for Justice, the Osborne Association, the Correctional Association of New York, Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP, Be the Evidence Project/Fordham, and the Florence V. Burden Foundation. The symposium examined the growing numbers of aging people in prison, their prison conditions, their transition back into the community and the need to increase the release of aging people who pose little or no public safety risk. This is a critical part of reducing mass incarceration and of creating a more fair, just and humane justice system.

The report can be downloaded here Aging in Prison Report


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Life Outside: Rosalie Comes Home

In collaboration with the Media and Idea Lab (MIL) at Columbia University, the Center for Justice launched “Life Outside: Rosalie Comes Home,” the first in a series of videos featuring formerly incarcerated people over the age of 60 who are released from prison after having served lengthy sentences.