The growth in the elderly inmate prison population: The role of determinate punishment policies
State and federal prison systems have experienced an unprecedented and accelerating growth in their elderly inmate populations over the past three decades. While aging inmates have significant operational and cost implications for correctional systems, a clear understanding of the nature and mechanisms behind the growth in this special population does not exist. This article examines the trends in the older inmate population in Florida from 1980 to 2010 to assess whether significant changes in the punishment policies in the state over this period have contributed to this population’s growth and to better understand the composition of this special inmate group. We present annual data over a 31-year period to describe the trends in prison admissions, releases, stock populations, and the average length of stay for the age-groups of 49 or younger versus 50 and older. This trend analysis against a backdrop of changes in punishment structure over time will inform policy makers about how trends in demographic populations like the elderly inmate population in Florida have coincided with shifts in sentencing practices.