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DiNapoli: Increase in Older Inmates Challenges New York’s Prison System

New York’s prison population is decreasing, but the number of inmates age 50 and over rose 46 percent from 2007 to 2016, according to a report issued today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

While data detailing inmate health care costs by age groups is not readily available in New York, DiNapoli’s report found that overall, such costs rose to over $380 million in 2015-16 State Fiscal Year, an increase of $64.5 million, or 20.4 percent, in the last three years.

“New York must confront the challenges of an aging inmate population,” DiNapoli said. “We need to better understand and study the issues and examine what others are doing effectively to determine an approach that protects taxpayers, keeps the public safe and provides humane care.”

The report notes there are proposals at the federal and state levels, as well as from criminal justice experts, aimed at addressing an aging inmate population. For example, some experts have suggested that because of factors, including recidivism rates that are lower for older inmates than for their younger counterparts, use of early release for older individuals may be an appropriate strategy in certain instances.

DiNapoli’s report suggests the development of more complete data and analysis of the issues stemming from New York’s aging prison population. This information would help policy makers, advocates, and stakeholders identify and assess appropriate measures to address this challenge effectively.

Other findings in the Comptroller’s report include:

  • Inmates in the 50 and over age range comprised 19.4 percent of the state’s prison population in January 2016, as compared to 11.0 percent a decade earlier. As of 2016, nearly 2,400 inmates, 4.6 percent of the total, were 60 or older.
  • The average age of inmates under custody in New York state prisons was 38.3 years in January 2016, an increase of 1.8 years, or 4.9 percent, since January 2007.
  • Over the same decade, New York’s total inmate count fell by nearly 11,000, or 17.3 percent, to around 52,000. Among age cohorts for which readily available data allow comparisons, no other age segment of New York’s prison population increased over the 10-year period.

To read “New York State’s Aging Prison Population,” go to: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/aging-inmates.pdf

For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 130,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created to promote transparency in government and provide taxpayers with better access to financial data.

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