Government Explores Early Release for More Aging Prisoners

Post Date: November 12, 2013

Aging prison inmate Benjamin Share

Benjamin Share

(Los Angeles Times) — He hobbled down the dark tiled hallway, leaning heavily on his black wooden cane. His feet shuffled, his hands shook, and finally 85-year-old Benjamin Share nearly collapsed into a chair in the prison visitation room.

Convicted in 2006 for illegally pocketing a quarter of a million in taxpayer money, he struggles with diabetes, tuberculosis, osteoporosis, hypertension and arthritis, which has ravaged his hips and spine. He has undergone kidney dialysis and treatment for cancer on his scalp and scar tissue on his lungs. His prostate is enlarged and his memory is fading. Half of his bottom teeth are gone.

Not scheduled to leave prison until January 2015, the former Navy procurement attorney is among 170 federal prisoners over age 80 — many in failing health or near dying — whose conditions are challenging government officials to strike a new balance between the public interest in punishing criminals and compassion for the sick and aging.

It’s not just about mercy. Equally crucial to a federal prison service grappling with a soaring budget is the burden and cost of caring for ailing convicts who, like Share, receive taxpayer-funded healthcare that can make them two or three times more expensive than the average prisoner. Read more