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Geriatric Incarceration at Virginia’s Deerfield Correctional Center

| October 31, 2010

Last month, The Washington Post ran an interesting story on the Deerfield Correctional Center, a geriatric prison in Virginia.  Geriatric incarceration is extremely expensive.  According to The Post,  “[i]t costs $28,800 annually to house an inmate at Deerfield, compared with the $19,000 it costs at most of the state’s medium-security prisons.”

Several states have rightly experimented with geriatric release programs, but these proposals must be approached with caution.  In some cases, often involving sex offenses, prisoners did not become geriatric in prison — rather they entered as geriatrics.  Reformers must also realize that there is a moral component in addition to the financial one.  As a commenter on The Atlantic Monthly’s website wrote in response to the article: “Often the impact of the offender’s action reverberates in the victim’s life well beyond the time the offender serves.  And often the only sense of vindication they feel is knowing that the person who hurt them will not only not be able to hurt anyone else, but will not be free to enjoy their ‘golden years.’”

None of this means that geriatric parole is a bad idea.  It simply means that as with any parole program, thoughtful distinctions must be made between those whom society feels are deserving of parole and those whom it feels are not deserving.

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VIBRANT P. REDDY is Senior Fellow for criminal justice issues at the Charles Koch Institute. Previously, Reddy was the Senior Policy Analyst for both Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice. He has authored several reports on criminal justice policy and is a frequent speaker and media commentator on the topic. Reddy has worked as a research assistant at The Cato Institute, as a law clerk to the Honorable Gina M. Benavides of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals of Texas, and as an attorney in private practice, focusing on trial and appellate litigation. Reddy graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Plan II Honors, Economics, and History, and he earned his law degree at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and of the State Bar’s Appellate Section and Criminal Justice Section.

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