TaxWatch recommends paroling elderly prisoners

Florida’s prison population is rapidly increasing despite declining crime rates, and the latest report from Florida TaxWatch recommends options to prevent increasing costs from overwhelming taxpayers. The report, Florida’s Aging Prisoner Problem, warns that the steadily growing elderly prison population in state facilities will require more costly medical care, resulting in additional budget concerns for an already struggling Department of Corrections.

“Community safety is the first thing to consider when addressing criminal justice reform, but Florida has options to reduce costs and actually improve public safety.” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. “Florida taxpayers and policymakers must understand the rapidly incurring costs that accompany aging prisoners so that smart policies can be pursued that prevent either ballooning costs or quick fixes to jeopardize the safety and security of Florida citizens.”

The analysis estimates that by the end of 2015, Florida will have nearly 4,100 additional prisoners in the elderly population, bringing the total to nearly 25,000. The average health care costs for each of these prisoners are estimated by Florida TaxWatch to be $11,000 annually.

The report suggests the Florida Department of Corrections consider clemency or early release for elderly non-violent offenders who are nearing release dates or are requiring end-of-life care.

“Understanding the future obligations Florida taxpayers will have for the criminal justice system will ensure our policymakers are prepared to budget for corrections costs,” added Calabro.

To identify, assess and manage Florida’s elderly prison population, Florida TaxWatch also recommends reporting requirements for elderly prisoners’ health care costs and the projections of elderly prison growth.

Read the report.