To the editor:
Massachusetts has one of the oldest prison populations in the country; however, we are one of only five states that have not implemented a compassionate release program for this ever-growing population.
The way prisons are designed, they typically do not accommodate those who need wheelchair assistance. Some prisoners are unable to feed themselves, bathe themselves, or even dress themselves. It would be most reasonable to put these inmates in facilities such as those that can actually care and provide for the specific needs of the terminally ill. It has been shown that the amount of death behind bars is expected to rise with the aging prison population.
Forgetting the idea of terminally ill patients, housing someone 50 or over in a correctional facility costs nearly two times as much as it does to house a younger individual. Community-based health care systems that care for those with terminal illnesses are typically more cost efficient and suitable than prisons. Implementing such programs could potentially save Massachusetts taxpayers, as well as the state itself, millions of dollars.
These inmates no longer carry the capacity to engage in criminal behavior or put society at a risk. Those who are released are viewed by the board as no longer a threat to society. Evidence shows that incarcerating many elderly people yields minimal benefits for public safety. For federal prisons, 41% of inmates released are rearrested within three years of their release; however, when it comes to the 142 inmates released due to compassionate issues, only 3.5% reoffended within three years of their release.
In conclusion, I urge for you to review bills considering compassionate release programs within Massachusetts as I strongly believe that our state could benefit greatly from them.