The percent of senior inmates incarcerated in federal prisons will continue to rise unless there is a systemic solution to this systemic reality. We have an egregious number of nonviolent citizens who have received sentences of life without parole as a result of the war on drugs. As they continue to age, they will become a larger percent of the prison population.
In order for these inmates to receive sentencing relief, we must have commutations, compassionate release and/or retroactive legislation. Unless commutation efforts begin to make remarkable headway, this endeavor will not make a significant dent in this specific prison population.
A more universal approach would seem to be necessary. Besides being fiscally irresponsible, continued incarceration of these nonviolent elderly men and women is not compatible with our sense fairness and punishment that fits the crime.
We need to have clemency like that granted by President Ford and Carter when they granted clemency to those who violated the Selective Service Act. Other Presidents have used similar methods for systemic relief. There are many templates that could be used by the President and Congress to make this happen.
When the United States incarcerated at a rate of 7 times that of any other developed nation, it should be a red flag warning citizens that we have lost our way on the road to freedom.
Beth Curtis, MSW