humane or coldhearted?

From Marty Roney USA TODAY August 14, 2008 via Real Cost of Prisons

“A USA TODAY review of state departments of corrections’ policies found 36 states have some program allowing for the early release of dying or infirm prisoners. . . . Known in some states as medical furlough, humanitarian parole or compassionate release, states with the programs rely on their boards of pardons and paroles to follow up on inmates released for medical reasons, a phone and e-mail survey of states’ departments of corrections showed. . . . The driving force behind medical release of inmates is the rising cost of medical treatment for prison systems, said Ron McCuan, a public health analyst with the National Institute of Corrections, an agency of the Justice Department.”

Older prisoners are generally very low risk for communities. Releasing prisoners who are elderly or ill saves prisons money and seems humane — who wants to die in prison? But people who have been in prison all their lives often have no place to go and no resources to get medical care. The prisons are offloading their most expensive prisoners onto the social welfare institutions of local governments or to life with no supports at all. Which is not to say I see keeping old people in prison to be all that good, either.