Prisons Facing the Challenge of Caring for an Aging Population

Dementia and Alzheimer’s among elderly inmates creates an interesting dynamic within the prison population.

Some of the most hardened criminals come to the aid of ailing inmates, helping them with the most intimate of care with compassion and patience.

Dementia in prison is an underreported but fast-growing phenomenon, one that many prisons are desperately unprepared to handle. It is an unforeseen consequence of get-tough-on-crime policies — long sentences that have created a large population of aging prisoners. About 10 percent of the 1.6 million inmates in America’s prisons are serving life sentences; another 11 percent are serving over 20 years.

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