ALMOST WITHOUT FAIL, when a major change in governmental policy or state law occurs, there is the potential, and in some cases, a certainty, for adverse consequences later. Such is the case involving the state prison system, where stricter laws enacted over the past several decades have led to a ballooning prison population. The later has arrived, and there is a twofold problem in full bloom.
Georgias inmate population has its prisons bulging at the seams, presenting soaring bills for the care and housing of more and more prisoners. This was expected when the General Assembly passed laws mandating lengthy terms, particularly for recidivists and those committing heinous acts.
Now, another facet of the problem has emerged: With more prisoners serving longer prison terms, there has been a substantial increase in the number of geriatric prisoners.
Their numbers are growing far faster than the general inmate population, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, and elderly prisoners those over 50 fall into that category are far more expensive to house, costing up to three times more than younger, healthier prisoners, considering older inmates health-care requirements.
One thing for sure: This problem is going to get worse, and it will do so fairly quickly. For example, the paper reported that from 1999 to 2006, Georgias prison population grew 39 percent; at the same time, there was a 172 percent increase in older inmates.
This is a trend throughout the South, where stricter laws have been the rule rather than the exception. Neighboring Alabama saw an inmate population increase of 29 percent over the same period and a 193 percent increase in older inmates.
As long as Georgia essentially warehouses prisoners rather than seriously seeking to rehabilitate them, the problem will worsen and our tax bill will mount. Already, the state must consider new prison nursing facilities as well as hospice care for those who will die in prison.
Logic suggests that it would be far smarter to concentrate on rehabilitation rather than just locking them up and throwing away the keys