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Prisons Are Facing Aging Populations, Too

The number of U.S. prisoners age 50 and over has increased 330 percent since 1994.
A new Urban Institute report examines the costs of the rapidly growing aging population in American prisons.
A new Urban Institute report examines the costs of the rapidly growing aging population in American prisons. Getty Images

The last baby boomer will turn 65 in 2030, but infrastructure across the United States (from our housing stock to the very configuration of our streets) is not going to mature fast enough to meet the needs of the newly elderly. A new Urban Institute report adds one more institution to the list of those being affected by this dramatic demographic shift: our prisons, where older and older inmates are taking their own toll on the nation's already-overextended corrections budget.

Right now, prisoners over 50 make up about 18 percent of the total U.S. federal prison population. That may seem like a small share, but the costs of caring for these inmates are much larger than for their younger counterparts—and their numbers are only expected to balloon, says Bryce Peterson, a research associate at the Urban Institute and one of the report's authors.