On Monday, October 30, 2017, Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP presented testimony at a legislative hearing on healthcare in the New York State prison system. Two New York Assembly Committees—Health and Correction—hosted the hearing, which was titled, “Healthcare in Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prisons.”
RAPP was pleased as much of the day’s conversation focused on the increasingly urgent issue of older people in prison. This conversation began when Assembly Member David Weprin, Chair of the Correction Committee, asked DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci what he thought were the biggest barriers to healthcare in DOCCS. The Commissioner responded by saying that the aging prison population is the number one barrier to supporting the healthcare needs of those in custody.
Assembly Member Weprin also took the important step of asking the Commissioner the age at which he and the Department begin defining people as older. The Commissioner and his Chief Medical Officer both responded, age 55. Although RAPP defines incarcerated older people as those who are 50 and older, we agree with the Commissioner that people in prison age at a faster pace than those in healthier environments, and as a result have an internal, physiological clock that is 10-15 years accelerated.
Both RAPP and the Osborne Association spent nearly all of their presented testimony on the subject of incarcerated older people, and both publicly stated that older people should be presumptively released on parole. Throughout the hearing, Assembly Member Weprin indicated that he is interested in taking major steps to promote the release of incarcerated older people. He is currently the lead sponsor of several bills on the topic.
While RAPP believes that everyone in DOCCS custody should receive the healthcare they deserve and are constitutionally required to receive, we challenge the legislature to prioritize presumptively releasing older people aged 50 or older who have served at least 15 years in prison. Releasing older people who fit this criterion would save lives, reconnect families and communities, and reduce the high financial costs (both financial and moral) associated with keeping aging people in prison. It is time for New York State to champion policies that promote the release of our elders and save all of us from unneeded death and despair. —Dave George, RAPP
Read the testimony RAPP submitted to the hearing
Watch the entire hearing, where others—including David Weprin, chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction—spoke in favor of parole for older incarcerated people, and where DOCCS Acting Commissioner says that aging is the top challenge to prison healthcare in New York.