Prisons and COVID-19: A Desperate Call for Gerontological Expertise in Correctional Health Care

Gerontologist. 2021 Jan 21;61(1):3-7. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnaa088.


The large and continued growth of the older adult population within U.S. prisons affects not only criminal justice policy and correctional health practice, but also gerontology. Amidst the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, associated knowledge and skills surrounding older adulthood will be critical to assuring the needs of older adults incarcerated in prisons are met during their detention, while undergoing off-site intervention in community settings, and when preparing for release. We outline several key areas for which gerontologists and associated practitioners are especially well suited in the effort to curtail morbidity and mortality driven by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Critical gerontological knowledge and skills needed in prison health care include awareness regarding the unusual clinical presentations of COVID-19 among older adults, deconditioning among older adults due to immobility, challenges in prognostication, and advance care planning with older adults. Specific, targeted opportunities for gerontologists are identified to reduce growing risks for older adults incarcerated in prisons.

Keywords: COVID-19; Correctional health; Prison.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Geriatrics*
  • Humans
  • Prisoners*
  • Prisons
  • SARS-CoV-2