Expansion of long-term care in the prison system: an aging inmate population poses policy and programmatic questions

J Aging Soc Policy. 2002;14(2):43-61. doi: 10.1300/J031v14n02_03.


Throughout the United States, departments of corrections are experiencing increases in their inmate populations. More specifically, the number of aging inmates is increasing and will continue to grow as younger prisoners who have long sentences with no possibility of parole age in prison. In addition, the number of younger inmates with illnesses such as AIDS has increased. Although long-term care can be required by individuals of any age, the need for such assistance tends to increase with age. Long-term care, therefore, can be seen as an issue confronting prisons with aging inmate populations. Yet, little is known about the nature or extent of the need. This paper focuses on older inmates and includes reasons for the increased need for long-term care in the prison setting. The standard for prison health care, the long-term-care status of older inmates, and examples of long-term-care services and facilities are described. Key questions related to furnishing long-term care to an older incarcerated population are identified. Recommendations are presented for both corrections and long-term-care providers and policymakers as they develop strategies to address this challenge.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services for the Aged / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services for the Aged / supply & distribution
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisoners
  • Prisons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons / trends
  • United States