Virginia's elderly prisoners: Set them free
By Mimi Verdonk
If you can’t feed yourself, can you hold a gun? If you’re confined to a wheelchair, can you hijack a car? If you’re too weak to get out of bed, are you a legitimate threat to society? The answer to all these questions is an obvious no, and yet 5,000 Virginia inmates, bedridden and decrepit, are being kept in prisons [“Part prison, part nursing home,” Metro, Sept. 8].
Deerfield Correctional Center, which houses 400 of these elderly criminals, is an extension of Death Row. Old prisoners wait out their last days, months and years there, hoping to be paroled but expecting to die in prison, the only home many of them have had for many years. The odds are against them; few eligible inmates have won release.
Meanwhile, the price of housing elderly prisoners, many of whom suffer from dementia and diabetes, is almost $10,000 more than the cost of housing the average inmate. Our tax dollars are spent on men and women who could just as easily be taken care of by family members or nursing homes. It’s the job of prisons to reform convicts, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, especially an old dog who is going blind and has heart problems.
The best solution is to set the wheelchair-bound inmates free. Murder, robbery and arson are the last thing on these prisoners’ minds. Soon-to-be released inmate Ray Tatum says he just wants a “McDonald’s cheeseburger.” My guess is that other inmates, when they envision being released, want the same thing.
| September 13, 2010; 8:39 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Va. Politics, Virginia, crime
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