In what is often considered to be one of the most beloved movies of all time, "The Shawshank Redemption" tells the story of two incarcerated men, from entirely different backgrounds, who bond. Beset with trials and tribulations, Academy Award-winning actors Tim Robbins and Morgan Freedman play characters (Andy and Red, respectively) who somehow find solace and redemption through what the writers call "acts of common decency."
After serving 40 years of a life sentence, Red, now graying and middle-aged, has a scene where he sits before what is to be his last parole hearing panel.
"I look back on myself the way I was... stupid kid who did that terrible crime... wish I could talk sense to him. Tell him how things are. But I can't," he says, "That kid's long gone, this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that."
Prison populations getting older
Little did Red know it, but in correctional facilities around the country, his words represent much more than a personal lament. Red's words point to what is a growing trend and one of corrections' most pressing issues today--prison populations are getting older.
Data, taken from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Corrections Reporting Program, National Prisoner Statistics Program and Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities (1991 and 2004), along with the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, revealed unequivocally that people 55 and over are now the fastest growing age group in the U.S. prison population today.
BJS reported several findings:
--The number of inmates age 55 or older, sentenced to more than one year in state prison, increased 400 percent between 1993 and 2013, from 26,300 (3 percent of the total state prison population) in 1993 to 131,500 (10 percent of the total population) in 2013.
--The incarceration rate for inmates age 55 or older, sentenced to more than one year in state prison, increased from 49 per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same age in 1993 to 154 per 100,000 in 2013.
--Between 1993 and 2013, more than 65 percent of inmates age 55 or older were serving time in state prison for violent offenses, compared to a maximum of 58 percent for other age groups sentenced for violent offenses.
--At yearends 1993, 2003 and 2013, at least 27 percent of state inmates age 55 or older were sentenced for sexual assault, including rape.
--More than four times as many inmates age 55 or older were admitted to state prisons in 2013 (25,700) than in 1993 (6,300).
The Associated Press reported that Dr. Mike Hegmann, medical...