Monday, August 13, 2001

Aging inmates' health care can be costly

The Associated Press

        TOLEDO, Ohio — Ohio is one of only 16 states to place aging inmates in a separate prison, where the cost of medical care averages about $1,500 more per inmate than in prisons with younger populations.

        The Hocking Correctional Institution in southeast Ohio holds about 400 inmates, including killers, child molesters and drug dealers. Their average age is 62. In all, about 4,500 of Ohio's 45,000 inmates are older than 50, The Toledo Blade reported Sunday.

        Last year, about 103,000 pris oners nationwide were older than 50, which is about 8.6 percent of the overall prison population, according to the Criminal Justice Institute.

        The population above 50 is increasing at about 10 percent a year, said Dr. Ronald Aday, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University who studies geriatric prison issues.

        As part of sweeping anti-crime legislation passed in 1996, Ohio removed the possibility of parole for certain murders, imprisoning them until death.

        Taxpayers must pay for the health care of elderly inmates. At Hocking Correctional, the cost is an average $3,850 annually to cover medical expenses for each inmate, said Kay Northrup, deputy director of the Office of Correctional Health Care for the state's prison system.

        At the Montgomery Education and Pre-Release Center in Day ton, where inmates are younger, the cost is about $1,500 per inmate less than at Hocking.

        Having a separate prison like Hocking Correctional to house elderly inmates is somewhat rare. Of the 46 state prison systems responding to a recent survey, only 16 offered separate housing.


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