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Mental health needs of aging prisoners is a fruitful area for coverage

All but a relative handful of incarcerated persons in the United States go home. But those sentenced to longer – if not lifetime – prison stays mainly account for an increasingly older population in state and federal correctional facilities.

While the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics has been tracking that surge, it has not tallied the prevalence of mental illness among prisoners who are aging. Moreover, aging persons — imprisoned or not — are at greater risk for certain mental illnesses.

A comparatively small coterie of university researchers, alongside physicians and others providing care for those behind bars, say older inmates’ mental illnesses run the gamut. These researchers and clinicians have begun, even if incrementally, to try to empirically measure mental health problems among aging inmates, adding, they say, to what is a relatively small body of research about this group of individuals.

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