Up to 200,000 prison inmates with dementia in the next decade — many won’t know why they’re there!

Like the rest of the United States population, the prison population is aging fast. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2030, people over the age of 55 will account for almost one-third of all incarcerated people. That means that American prisons will house upward of 400,000 older prisoners, about the same population of New Orleans, representing a near doubling of the number of older prisoners currently behind bars.

Caring for these elderly prisoners suffering from physical and mental frailty will create significant challenges for prisons…

As an expert in human rights law and a former commissioner on Pennsylvania’s Sentencing Commission, I am concerned about the burden this places on already overstretched prisons, but also the cost to human dignity. Furthermore, my research suggests that indefinitely detaining someone who does not understand why may violate the United States Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Rachel Lopez is more than well-qualified to address the topic. I praise her forethought in addressing yet another topic critical to criminal justice, her courage in trying to get Americans to care about one more tough subject demanding attention and focus. Good luck!

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