Age and Wisdom

By: Andreas Lazaris  

Between 2007-2010 the number of “elderly” prisoners in the U.S grew at a rate 94 times the overall prison population. Estimates for 2020 place the elderly inmate population at 21-33% of the total U.S. prison population. Despite this, there exist few resources for supporting the needs of older adults in prison and those transitioning to the community. As of 2007, fewer than 5% of state prisons in the U.S. provided any geriatric-specific services, and there are currently few models targeting aging individuals within correctional facilities. Despite this, prison programs that improve health and cognitive skills have been associated with decreased rates of recidivism and re-arrest. In the absence of geriatric-specific supports provided at the Rhode Island state prison, this project assesses the creation of an eight-week curriculum entitled “Aging and Wisdom.” This course takes place in the medium-security wing of RI's state prison, where 30% of adults are over the age of 50. Our group is comprised of 10 men aged 50-80. Led by a medical provider and a social worker, our group aims to provide older adults aging in prison with a space to make sense of their age and circumstances amongst peers. Further, this group is centered on facilitating capacity-building and preparedness for transition into the community in the absence of formal supports in the state of RI. This project shares an overview of our course, an exploration of its curriculum, writings and reflections of participating inmates, and self-assessments conducted by inmates through a pre- and post-course survey.

Aging Inmates, Prison, Incarceration, Transitions, Capacity-Building
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Andreas Lazaris

Brown University

Medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University