Competition in Senior Housing Space Coming from Unsavory Source: Prison

As the nation’s senior population grows and lifespans extend, competition for housing the elderly is coming from an unlikely corner: prison. 

Along with the surging population of senior inmates—driven by an increase in life sentencesis the staggering cost of their care, with taxpayers in some areas footing the bill, according to an article from Time Out Chicago. 

In a nation wrestling with how to pay for rising healthcare costs, the cost for criminals to receive medical attention in a prison setting or as a prisoner is stirring the debate on whether or not there is an easier way to fund these costs, like prison nursing homes.


Since the 1970s, the nation’s incarceration rate has quintupled; the last time the U.S. prison population was tallied, in 2010, it was 1.6 million—the highest in the world. Meanwhile, sentences have become more strict (nationwide, the number of lifers tripled between 1992 and 2008), and many states, including Illinois, have abolished parole. The outcome: Prisons are becoming nursing homes for killers, child molesters and drug dealers. And all of us are paying for their medical care.

Eliminating parole was popular with both liberals, who thought the parole board discriminated against blacks, and conservatives, who wanted longer sentences. But the system that replaced it—in which life means you’re only leaving prison in a hearse—has created a class of superannuated inmates.

One solution backed by the JHA: If sickly prisoners were released into nursing homes, their health care would be less expensive—and would be paid for by Medicare, which is funded mainly by the federal government.


[T]he question of how to deal with murderers in their dotage requires the state to reconcile two conflicting desires among the public: paying lower taxes, and punishing criminals to the fullest extent of the law. 

[I]n the battle between taxpayers and what some consider true justice, maybe there’s middle ground. A sentence modification law that more closely mimics Louisiana’s, which is limited to nonviolent offenders, may have a better chance of passing than the proposed 2009 law, which gave murderers a chance to get out of prison.

The idea of parole is a double-edged sword to politicians and taxpayers. By freeing an inmate, the taxpayer no longer has to fund that individual’s healthcare, says the article. However, releasing an ex-murderer back into society is often troubling to politicians and justice advocates.

Politicians and taxpayers will need to find a “middle ground” to decided who should bear these costs, says Time Out. 

Read the Time Out Chicago article.

Written by Jason Oliva