November 2, 2021: Jose Saldaña, New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “A Racial Disparity in Schizophrenia Diagnoses in Nursing Homes” (The Upshot, Oct. 17):
As your article explains, Black older adults receive worse care in nursing home settings, just as we do in all health care settings. But if elder care for Black people is bad in the community, imagine how we are treated in prison.
The kind of control achieved through misuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes is just one of the tools used behind bars. Senior incarcerated people suffering from age-related illnesses, such as dementia and hearing impairments, are routinely punished because they don’t respond to a “direct order” quickly enough.
Some have been placed in solitary confinement and had their wheelchairs, walkers or canes confiscated as punishment. Physical abuse of seniors in prison is not uncommon. Prison-based regional medical units for the terminally ill are rife with neglect. As prison populations have slowly declined, older people serving long sentences have largely been left behind, so there is a worsening crisis of aging, sickness and lonely deaths in New York, as in other states.
To protect our elders from the horrors of growing old behind bars, policymakers must act to provide meaningful release opportunities, including by passing the elder parole bill here in New York State.
The writer is director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign.