Ken’s Comments:

This is just plain idiotic, inefficient and ineffective, and a fantastic waste of YOUR tax money. 

I have long said that most elderly, ill, “lowest of the low risk” inmates should be released! Here we see (and I have seen many such examples, like Delaware’s POPS program)  politicians passing a law which sounds good – looks like they are addressing the problem – which does not work!


Excerpts from the Article:


Twenty-four hours a day for 10 weeks, inmates in maroon uniforms with “D.O.C.” stamped on the backs held a death vigil over Frank Rodriguez. His colon cancer was terminal, but he refused to die — not behind the barbed wire and bars of Graterford Prison. Like most states, Pennsylvania has a compassionate-release law, a way out for dying inmates. Rodriguez, who was so weak he needed help eating, bathing, and turning on his side, qualified. But successful petitions are exceedingly rare and excruciatingly slow.

Rodriguez had not committed a violent crime. He was locked up on a parole violation — smoking marijuana — for the underlying offense of stealing a $1 lemonade from a 7-Eleven store in 2013.

Yet to be allowed to die outside prison, he’d need a raft of forms and records, a judge’s approval and — though he was too weak to walk — an electronic monitor on his ankle. His sister Miriam said he finally came home Aug. 25. He died Aug. 27.  After this two-month struggle, when we got him into hospice, he was a 57-year-old skeleton,” she said. “All we had was a day and a half of him before he passed. We could have had months of him if not for all this paperwork.”

She’ll never forget the dark comedy of the hospice staff struggling to find a pair of scissors that could slice off the monitor that hung loose from his bony ankle. Nothing worked. “Our family was devastated. Let him die with dignity,” she said. “They let the morgue pick him up with that still on him.”

Even as Pennsylvania has incrementally reduced its prison population, the number of elderly inmates has grown at a startling rate. In 2001, there were 1,892 geriatric inmates, age 55 or older. Today, there are 6,458 of them.

They’re typically people serving very long sentences for a single, very serious crime, noted Rutgers University criminologist Todd Clear. (“This is a particularly American problem,” he noted. “The U.S. has a kind of world monopoly on extremely long sentences.”)

“They are among the lowest-risk people in the prison,” he said.

They’re also wildly expensive to house, even compared to Pennsylvania’s average per-inmate cost of $42,727 a year. Researchers estimate caring for an elderly inmate costs three to nine times more than housing a younger prisoner.


The law’s language, he noted, is extremely restrictive: Applicants must be near death and unable to walk. Since January 2015, 483 inmates have died in state prison; 343 of them 55 or older. Few bother seeking compassionate release. In the last two years, only 24 people have applied, and about six were approved.


Her brother finally came home in an ambulance, with his skin worn through at his tailbone. He spent his last day alive surrounded by his family.

Still, Arifaj said, “at least he did get out. There are people who never get that day.”

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