Caring for the Elderly After Prison

What happens to an elderly inmate when they are released? Would it be beneficial to release more elderly inmates back into the community? The American population in general is becoming older, and correctional facilities are no exception to this. These inmates can place an exception burden on facilities and governments responsible for their care.
Conditions for the elderly and infirm are often extra challenging when they are kept in prison. Due to limited space, resources, and equipment, they are not easily made comfortable. Most prisons were not made with accommodating those who have difficult walking in mind. It is estimated that older prisoners are two to three times more expensive to care for than younger ones. And while incarcerated, inmates are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare for treatment inside the facility.
Correctional health providers know how costly in time and dollars it can be to take care of elderly inmates. Releasing them to live out their days in the community provides a better general outcome. Increased usage of compassionate releases can help realize this. No matter what, it is an issue that will need more and more attention as populations age.

Coping with the Incarceration of a Loved One

It has been well-established that the effects of incarceration aren’t limited to the person who finds him or herself facing hard time. Parents and friends, not to mention spouses and children, are immensely affected by their loved ones being given a prison sentence, and often in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

We’ve covered in the past the effects of parental incarceration on children. In short, children of all ages, but particularly those in the developmental stages, suffer both mental and emotional consequences from having a parent behind bars. Their grades begin to plummet as their attendance and ability to focus in school-settings drops dramatically. They find themselves ostracized at school and embarrassed by their home life.

This can cause a vicious cycle at home in what can only be described as a cruel circle of negative impacts on everyone involved. As the children struggle to adapt to their parent or guardian’s incarceration, the spouse of the incarcerated has the responsibility of taking on the full burden of raising and caring for the child. Depending on the child’s age, this can be an incredibly difficult task, and a drastic change in responsibility depending on income and employment status.

Coping with a loved one’s sudden incarceration can be mentally taxing. While the prison and legal system does its work without the courts, the family is often left out to dry both mentally and fiscally.

Acceptance is a large part of the process. Understanding that the mistakes made by your loved one do not reflect on you, your children, your friends or your life. However, these facts aside, the prison stay of your loved one will, without fail, affect you on the outside. You’ll be forced to determine when you’ll visit, what your relationship will be, what sort of financial support you’ll offer (if you’re in a situation to provide) and how you will proceed with your life.

Preparation is also a key factor in how the process will play out once it’s in action. Each and every scenario will differ, some enormously. Financial distress will be a case-to-case basis, and is determined entirely by the inmate and his or her loved ones. Sometimes, the inmate had been the primary breadwinner of the family, in which case a jail sentence could throw a wrench in the fiscal cog of the family. Again, this is why preparation is entirely important. Understanding what’s happened and where you play into it is the first and most important step in coping with family incarceration.

The mental taxation is a different ballgame entirely. There is also an unfortunate social stigma that becomes immediately attached to you and your family when incarceration becomes imminent. This stigma tends to stick easily and becomes hard to detach. phrases the importance of breaking that stigma well, saying:

“While there are no concrete solutions for the social stigmas associated with this situation, it’s very important that you find a support group or people who you can speak with. Being able to talk about what’s happening to you and your family can be a vital source of relief and comfort in this difficult time.”

There are a myriad of support groups, grief counselors and people to talk to that can help you with your problems. These offer means of expressing yourself and speaking with others who have direct experience experiencing what you’re going through. They can offer coping mechanisms and a great release for your thoughts and feelings.


The Celebrity Treatment Behind Bars

The life of celebrities, to an outsider or everyday person, seem lavish, filled with glitz, glamor and glory, and far and away better than anything the layman experiences. There are the Hollywood parties, the name-recognition, the status and the endorsements that bring in money with relatively little effort.

It’s not all Hollywood living for most celebrities, though. Multiple celebrities have described their status as something they’d give up if given the opportunity, citing paparazzi harassing them at any given opportunity and living a life under a microscope, their every move being documented for the world to see via social media. However, when it comes to breaking the law, being in the public eye can be both a gift and a curse.

The curse comes with being in the public eye. Getting a DUI, to a normal person, means serving time behind bars and carrying a criminal record for the next years or few decades, depending on your state and how many prior offenses you carry. If it’s your first offense, there is a reasonable chance that you’ll avoid time spent behind bars and instead be given some combination of a license suspension, a hefty fine and probation. For celebrities, however, even a minor charge means the world will know about your misdeed, with websites like TMZ or E! News constantly covering celebrities who break the law.

Being in the public eye may seem like a large drawback of celebrity status, but the potential benefits when it comes to criminal activity may very well outweigh the drawbacks.

The fact remains that, according to most, the cells and treatment that celebrities experience behind bars are more accommodating than those of the average person. Famous rapper Lil Wayne described his time served behind bars as “not that difficult,” as he reportedly was given a cell with a window and spent a good amount of time playing Uno and cooking with his fellow inmates.

There are also reports of celebrities avoiding strip searches and cavity searches, being given preferential treatment, isolated in their own cells and being allowed more freedoms than what an average man or woman may expect when serving a prison sentence.

Those lenient and often boring on cozy conditions of celebrities within prison walls only come to those who are actually sentenced to serve time. Often, when a celebrity or person otherwise in the public eye is caught committing a crime (or is suspected of committing one), the preferential treatment comes into play before he or she even reaches a cell.

Celebrities like Paris Hilton, Khloe Kardashian, Justin Bieber and Kid Rock have famously avoided stays in jail for what some believe was simply their standing in the public eye. Hilton was released from prison early for unspecified medical reasons, while Bieber avoided serving time for vandalism, street racing and suspected DUI by paying damages and attending anger management classes. Similarly, an officer was fired after failing to administer a sobriety test and asking for an autograph from singer Kid Rock after he was pulled over driving recklessly in the early morning.

While there are certainly drawbacks to a life in the limelight, sentencing for similar crimes seem to result in lighter punishment if you’re a household name.

Why Is the Incarceration Rate so High in the US?

According to commonly cited statistics, the United States has about 5% of the world’s population, but houses 25% of the world’s prison population. Most people agree that this percentage is too high and it has turned into a bipartisan issue to determine how the statistic can be lowered and what are the root causes for the high amount of people incarcerated. Much debate occurs over what caused this high incarceration rate, which has drastically increased since the 1980s. Below are various sources people attribute the high incarceration rate to.

The War on Drugs

Since the 1980s, the United States government has cracked down on drug-related crimes. If someone is found with just a small amount of illegal drugs on their person, they may go to prison for several years, even if they’re a minor. Anyone involved in drug smuggling and production can also be charged at the full level of the crime, even if their role was incredibly small or a one-time involvement. The law has become tougher on drug-related crimes in an effort to reduce drug abuse in the country. Whether or not this method works is a hotly contested issue.

Longer non-violent crimes sentences

In addition to long sentences for drug-related non-violent crime, other non-violent crimes now come with more serious sentences. Recently, California reduced certain non-violent crimes to misdemeanors instead of felonies, which resulted in 2,700 non-violent criminals being released from jail. More and more crimes are being labeled as felonies, which result in longer sentences, even when the crimes themselves are victimless or non-violent.

Trying minors as adults

Another issue that seems to have spiked the imprisonment rate is the trend of trying minors as adults in various cases. Since the 1980s, instances of minors committing violent crimes has risen, which results in the court being more likely to try them as adults, which results to longer sentences. These sentences lead to the juvenile being held in adult facilities. Since the offenders are usually high school age, their imprisonment prevents them from completing school, which leads to difficulty acquiring a job and the likelihood that they’ll revert back to crime in order to sustain themselves.

Political reasons

Politicians wish to appear as though they are tough on crime in order to help their approval ratings and the easiest way to do that is by handing out tougher prison sentences. Unfortunately, these sentences usually apply to non-violent criminals who usually serve short sentences due to the nature of their crimes.

In an interview with SlateJohn Pfaff, a Fordham Law School professor, espouses an interesting new theory. He believes most people don’t really understand the reason for the high incarceration rate. He argues that the War on Drugs and longer sentences absolutely do not account for the increase of the prison population. Pfaff believes the real culprit is district attorneys. It became more likely after the 1980s that a DA charged someone with a felony. While there isn’t a clear answer as to why a DA would do that, Pfaff believes the answer might be that DAs began having higher political aspirations and knew a strong anti-crime stance could help them advance their careers.

Breaking the Mental Illness Stigma

“Well, why don’t you just try focusing on the positives?”
“Why can’t you just, be a little happier?”
“How are you depressed, your life isn’t that bad?”
“Anxiety and depression aren’t real, you just need to feel happier.”
“You’re too depressed all the time, it rubs off on us if we spend too much time together.”

These are just a small sample of the thoughts and feelings of millions of people around the world who have friends or loved ones with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety.
There is a certain, difficult to break stigma that comes with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness. Stigmas that surround issues like these are neither beneficial to the sufferers nor those who have friends who suffer from mental illness.
The stigmas are the reason that some people feel genuinely uncomfortable around those with depression. They feel as though every last mentally ill person could be at a tipping point, and any word or phrase, something from “you’ve got some ketchup on your shirt,” to “your shirt’s on backwards,” could set them off, spiraling into a deeper depression. And while depression is hardly a one-size-fits-all illness, it’s incredibly important to realize that it’s entirely possible for people to be fully-functioning members of society while they live with otherwise debilitating mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.
Some of the most successful people that this planet has seen walk on its earth have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Astronaut Bull Aldrin, talk-show host Ellen Degeneres and billionaire author JK Rowling have been diagnosed with depression, while
The stigma that depressed people walk around with their head slumping all day couldn’t be further from the truth. Think back to the tragic death of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, on the surface was affable, jovial and always laughing–not the picture of a depressed person that we’ve come to expect. This is part of that stigma, and another resounding reason it needs to be broken.
The social stigma imposed upon those who are suffering from a mental illness–regardless of what illness–can have profoundly negative effects on the way they live their lives. It contributes to an overall untrue set of beliefs towards those with mental illness and makes the social stigma a vicious cycle, harder and harder to break with every instance of stigmatization and labeling.
There is an undeniable and scientifically studied stigma that surrounds sufferers of mental illness that can prevent them from experiencing life in the same way as those without mental illness. It can affect their employment, their housing, their social and personal relationships.
It’s time to end the stigmas that surround mental illness. Learn about illness, learn what it really means to be mentally ill, and educate yourself on how you can help break that sitgma.

Pennsylvania Closing Two State Prisons

Governor Tom Wolf says the state will close two prisons to save money. The state prison inmate population had dropped considerably in recent years, which is prompting the cost-cutting move. Five state prisons are on the list of possible cuts.

But this is not sitting well in communities that are dependent on correctional facilities for jobs. In Pennsylvania, as in many states, many rural communities depend on these types of prisons as crucial employers. In some counties, the correctional facilities employ so many locals that other businesses, such as local retail, dining, and other business, will suffer second-hand effects from closings.

In order to make up for the lost beds, prisons will be running over capacity, which could make correction officers and medical personnel’s already difficult jobs more stressful. The job of rehabilitating prisoners, already so difficult, will get even tougher. There is also the chance that due to these overcrowded conditions, overtime will go up, partially negating any cost savings the commonwealth was hoping for.

Members of both political parties from all five counties are already making the case to the governor that their county should not be the one to lose out in the deal.