The Graduate School of Social Service is bringing together researchers, policymakers and practitioners onSaturday, Oct. 8, to tackle a growing yet widely ignored crisis: the aging prisoner population in the United States.
The public forum, which takes place at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, will feature a keynote speech on sentencing reform by Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at George Washington University and founder of the Project for Older Prisoners.
Turley and Mary Harrison, creator of the Nevada-based True Grit Program for elder inmates, will be presented with the newly established Mary Ann Quaranta Elder Justice Award for their contributions to prisoners’ rights and civil liberties.
Saturday, Oct. 8
12:30 pm. to 6:30 p.m.
Lincoln Center campus
113 West 60th Street, New York City
The event is free and open to the public.
Tina Maschi, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work and author of the study “Trauma, Coping Resources and Well-being Among Older Adults in Prison,” said that prisoners aged 50 and older comprise about 10 percent of the inmate population, but have increased tenfold since 1990.
Around that time, she said, the criminal justice system instituted stricter sentencing policies that have resulted in a whole cohort of aging inmates, many of whom are destined to die behind bars and many others who suffer from “accelerated aging” due to poor conditions.
“These inmates got a death sentence, not a prison sentence,” she said. “The national and international correctional care system, which was not designed to function as a long-term healthcare facility, is ill prepared to address older prisoners’ complex physical and mental health needs.”
Maschi noted that aging prisoners would benefit from the establishment of an elder justice system much like the existing juvenile justice system.
“These are not just inmates with numbers, but people with faces,” she said.
The forum is part of the GSS “Be The Evidence” project. Through her position as a Hartford Foundation scholar, Maschi launched Be The Evidence—a series of lectures and workshops—to help improve individual and community responses to today’s most critical social issues.
Please preregister for the event here.