The number of older inmates has increased significantly in recent years. During the last two decades, the number of inmates older than 55 grew by 500 percent. Incarceration has been shown to exacerbate the effects of aging due to histories of substance abuse, inadequate preventative care and stress linked to prison life. Health care costs made up approximately 20 percent of prison expenditures in 2015. In 2011, states spent $7.7 billion on prison health care compared to $8.1 billion in 2015.
One policy approach states have taken to address the population of older inmates is the adoption of medical and geriatric parole laws.
Nearly every state has a policy allowing for inmates with certain serious medical conditions to be eligible for parole, known colloquially as medical parole. In 45 states, the authority for the release of these inmates has been established in statute or state regulation. Additional information on state medical parole laws is available under the medical parole tab below.
Additionally, at least 17 states have geriatric parole laws in statute. These laws allow for the consideration for release of inmates when they reach a specified age. Additional information on state geriatric parole laws is available under the geriatric parole tab below.
At least 16 states have established both medical and geriatric parole legislatively. Virginia is the only state that has geriatric parole in statute but not medical parole.
While the vast majority of states have medical parole laws and a number of states have a geriatric parole law, they are rarely used. According to research from the Vera Institute of Justice, Alabama released 39 people through the state’s medical release law between 2008 and March 2016 and, out of more than 2,000 screenings for medical parole in Texas in 2016, 86 people were approved for release. These were states with some of the highest rates of release.
PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staffs. This site provides general comparative information only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice. NCSL cannot provide assistance with individual cases.