Let's Let All the Old People Out of Jail

Here in America, our jails are full of old people, and it's costing us a ton of money to keep them in there. Huh. Now there is a problem which certainly could not have been foreseen by craven "Law and order" politicians prosecuting a useless "War on Drugs" for the sake of public popularity, nor by the simplistic bloodthirsty voters who repeatedly elected them in order to satisfy a primal hatred of "the other." Anyhow, we have a solution: let the old people out of jail.

Jail should have a maximum inmate age. Ta da. Problem solved. "But hey," you object oafishly, probably while eating some nasty fish sandwich, "I want criminals to serve the full length of their sentences, whether that be 20 years or 30 years or life. I also lack a working grasp of math."

Let's get real. Let's set aside the issue of whether these old people—many of whom went into prison as young men, for drug crimes—actually deserve to be in prison that long at all. Let's look at this from a utilitarian point of view. "At current rates, a third of all prisoners will be 50 or older by 2030," the WSJ reports. And, "States spend on average $70,000 a year to incarcerate someone 50 or older." And what does society gain for this hefty and growing investment?

Nothing. Less than nothing. Society spends a ton of money—several times more than the cost of, say, annual tuition at a public university would cost—to keep old men who sold drugs decades ago locked up. In return for this, we buy ourselves... the right to pay for the heath care of lots of old men. There is little if any gain in public safety. Crime is, generally speaking, a young person's game. There are few retirees heavy in the drugs-and-violence game. They're the ones trying not to get mugged.

So let's have a jail retirement age. Everyone out the door at 65. Goodbye and good luck. Health care costs are highest in the final years of life; there's no reason for these men to spend those in a cell, in a government jail. For Republicans: this plan will save lots of taxpayer money. For people who are not cold-hearted bastards: this is the right thing to do. A couple of decades in jail is punishment enough. These people's criminal careers are over. There is nothing to be gained by forcing more and more people to die of old age in prison. We'll make an exception for any 70 year-old bank robbers. Other than that, go enjoy your retirements, freed prisoners. Florida is nice. Go to there. At least you can die in the sunshine.

[Photo: AP]