Black, Old and Locked Up

The research dates back more than a decade: Americans are aging in prison. But what has been done about reducing the elderly population in prison or what to do with the elderly once released is still being debated and studied.

Blame the swelled prison rolls on minimum mandatory sentences, the three strikes rule or the elimination of federal parole, researchers speculate. What is sure, the numbers are telling.

Black communities feel the effects of mass incarceration even more. One in three African-American men will serve time in prison, while only one in 17 white males will interact with prisons during their lifetime.

“At the current rate of growth, it is projected that by 2030 there will be more than 400,000 older people behind bars, a 4,400 percent increase from 1981 when only 8,853 of the country’s incarcerated people were elderly,” reports Mujahid Farid, lead organizer for Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) during a fact-finding session in January held by the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

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