Book Review: Aging in prison: The integration of research and practice

Date01 June 2019
Published date01 June 2019
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Hurley, M. H. (2014).
Aging in prison: The integration of research and practice. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. 187 pp. $26.28
(paperback), ISBN 978-1-59460-994-7.
Reviewed by: Breanne Pleggenkuhle, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016814556290
Over the past four decades, rapidly growing prison populations have produced a variety of unin-
tended consequences. Often postincarceration experiences such as employment and housing are con-
sidered; additional consequences such as the expense of maintaining the phenomenon of mass
incarceration and supervising changing populations have also arisen. In Aging in Prison: The Inte-
gration of Research and Practice, Martha H. Hurley highlights the growing population of elderly
offenders in American prisons. Providing an overview of policies that have contributed to changing
prison populations, trends over time, and specific issues challenging elderly inmates, Hurley draws
attention to an often-overlooked prison population.
Hurley begins the book by using the first three chapters to highlight policies that increase the pop-
ulation of aging offenders, various definitions of elderly offenders, and general trends (statistics and
changes over time) of older inmates. Chapter 1 provides an overview of broad correctional trends,
including philosophical and policy changes. Using tables and figures to provide evidence of the
incarceration boom, particularly emphasizing the impact of the war on drugs, the authors illustrate
general prison populations and identify the main causes of elderly inmates. Shrewdly included is a
brief introduction of the problems aging inmates face as well as the legally required provisions for
aged populations. Chapter 2 continues with an extended introduction of defining the key terms and
concepts regarding aging offenders. Here there is more specific narrative as to what identifies what
constitutes an elderly offender and more salient detail to the long-term offender population statistics.
The discussion benefits from a brief exploration into special populations, such as women and mino-
rities, that are particularly impacted by longer sentencing strategies (and henceforth aging in prison).
The highlight of the account is the introduction of the topic of ‘‘what next,’’ evaluating the general
obstacles of release from prison and describing how adjustment may be particularly difficult for
long-term and elderly offenders. Chapter 3 segues into specific details regarding elderly offenders,
exploring costs and needs of this population. Paralleling an aging general population, prisons are
now reevaluating policies regarding elderly prisons and finding a need to redirect funding to some
of the primary issues. A question Hurley highlights is the difficulty in establishing what defines an
elderly offender, particularly in comparison to the general population. The variation in types of
elderly offenders (e.g., first-time offenders vs. career criminals) is well defined and brings light
to the variance even within the elderly populations.
The following three chapters offer more specific details about the particular needs and challenges
facing elderly offenders. Chapter 4 specifically describes the health needs of elderly inmates. Recog-
nizing the health challenges of prisons overall, such as the spread of infectious diseases and the dif-
ficulty of treatment, the need for specific attention paid to elderly inmates is justified. Most attention
Criminal Justice Review
2019, Vol. 44(2) 244-248
ª2014 Georgia State University
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