In Effort to Reduce State Prison Healthcare Costs, New Jersey Would Become 18th State to Expand Parole Laws for Elderly, Qualified Inmates
(TRENTON) – Joining 17 other states that have adopted geriatric parole laws and citing the 4% re-incarceration rate for elderly convicts, Assemblyman Gary Schaer has introduced legislation to expand the state’s parole guidelines to include geriatric parole.
Schaer’s bill, aimed at helping New Jersey prison facilities reduce rising costs of care of an aging inmate population, would provide parole boards with guidelines for inmates 65 years of age or older who have served a minimum of one third of their sentence and have not committed violent crimes. There are currently 72 incarcerated individuals in New Jersey who could potentially qualify for geriatric parole and would be eligible for Medicaid, if released.
A 2018 report by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that, in 44 states, the number of incarcerated older individuals increased by 41 percent from fiscal years 2010 to 2015. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2015, healthcare costs made up approximately 20 percent of prison expenditures totaling roughly $8.1 billion dollars. Although there is no specific data for New Jersey, nationally, the cost to house and care for each incarcerated elderly individual ranges between $66,000 and $100,000 per year.
“As the State continues to propose new and needed programs, we need to also examine existing ones to see where we can become more efficient,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “With an aging prison population, the amount spent on healthcare for these particular inmates has increased dramatically and is drawing heavily on taxpayer dollars.”
“We all agree we need a real overview in terms of prison reform,” Schaer continued. “Enacting geriatric parole could represent somewhere between 3 and 7 million dollars in savings, while there is little to no likelihood that these individuals will commit other crimes.”
According to a report from the United States Sentencing Commission, the re-incarceration rate is around 4 percent for those 65 and older.
Under the bill, when reviewing a request for geriatric parole, the parole board panel will assess an inmate’s risk to public safety. The panel is required to notify the appropriate sentencing court, county prosecutor or Attorney General and any victim or member of the family of a victim who are entitled to notice regarding parole.
Any inmate serving a sentence for committing or attempting to commit the following offenses are not eligible for parole: murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, second degree arson, endangering the welfare of child, or terrorism. Additionally, inmates are not eligible for geriatric parole if serving a sentence for theft by deception, racketeering, or misapplication of entrusted property by fiduciary in which the inmate caused the victim to suffer a loss of personal monetary savings as a result of fraud, misrepresentation, or violation of a fiduciary duty.
At least 17 states have geriatric parole laws. Sixteen of these have legislatively established both medical and geriatric parole.
The bill was introduced on Thursday, January 17.