Dec. 26, 2017 By Christian Murray
The number of older adults reentering society after being incarcerated in state prisons is near an all-time high and the majority of older inmates face a torrid time upon their release—from homelessness to unemployment, according to an advocacy group for older prisoners.
Council Member Danny Dromm sponsored a bill that was passed by the City Council before Christmas that calls for the formation of a 12-member interagency task force to study the obstacles older inmates (aged 50 plus) face upon reentering society. The task force will provide recommendations that aim to help older prisoners upon release.
There are currently more than 10,000 inmates aged 50 and over in New York State prisons, according to the advocacy group Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP). The non-profit claims that of the 2,929 older inmates that were released from state prisons in 2016, 58 percent were homeless immediately (1,699) of which 1,200 went directly to homeless shelters.
The study will analyze the services that are currently offered to older, recently-released prisoners—from health care, housings, employment services to mental health programs. The task force will issue proposals on increasing social services, and will also look at the root causes as to why older inmates commit crimes upon release.
The task force will consist of eight members appointed by the mayor from relevant city agencies, provider organizations and advocacy groups. Three members must be formerly incarcerated individuals.
Four task force members must be appointed by the Council Speaker and chosen from impacted communities, academics and provider organizations with expertise in the field.
The bill, which has been dubbed the CARE Act, requires a report within a year of it being signed into law by the mayor.
“The CARE Act means justice for older adults reentering society post-incarceration,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) in a statement. “An increasing number of older adults are facing a destitute future…[and] we have a moral obligation to provide re-entering elders with the services they need to rejoin society.”
Mujahid Farid, leader of RAPP, said the legislation was very much needed.
“For far too long our elders have been permanently punished,” Farid said in a statement. “From long minimum sentences, to frequent parole denials and inadequate support upon release, the punishment of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated older people is endless. The passage of the CARE Act is a critical step toward…ending this permanent punishment.”
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