What is prison life like for elderly inmates?
I'm probably the "odd-man-out" in a manner of speaking. My time in prison did not go as badly as I had suspected it might. I was in general population in a dorm of 70 guys. I was new. I was 55 years old at that time. The first year I was taken advantage of. The usual stuff of having me buy commissary for someone who would guard my locker, etc. What did I know? I fell for it.
The second year, I was moved to another dorm. It was called the "honors" dorm because I had no disciplinary reports for the first year in prison. Being in the honors dorm would last as long as you didn't get a D.R. I was pretty deep into my Bible studies and there were several brothers in the dorm as well. The entire chapel praise team was in there, too. We had some hard heads thinking they were all that and a bag of chips, but we outnumbered them about 3 to 1 so nobody messed with us.
About 3 years in, one of the brothers came up to me and asked me how I was. I told him I was great, no problems. I was a houseman by then. An A-rhythmia was detected in my heart (usually does that for 50 and over) so I couldn't work in food service at the Chow Hall any longer bussing tables and working the back room, dish room, the food line, etc. All I had to do were the dorm windows and the officer station windows and the hardest part of the day was over. My time was my own after that.
This brother told me that there was someone who wanted to do some real damage to me and word got out to my friend. He continued by saying that "Five of us got together, and we spoke to him. We told him to leave you alone or he'll know the true meaning of the Wrath of God". One of the guys on "my side" (LOL) was 6′5″ and he made his living as an arm-breaker for a self-described "collection agency". One of the other guys who was my spiritual mentor there looked like a silver-backed gorilla. And I mean that in a good way. He loved football, but he loved God even more and if it were him alone, that guy would never come close enough to me to even say bad words.
I really had no clue what was going on behind the scenes and who was running interference for me. The CO's and the Sargents that were in the dorm on a regular basis knew me. We got along great. No problems.
One day, the Colonel paid our dorm a visit and pulled 6 of us aside ... the 5 guys and me and asked us to see what we could do to develop some prison life development courses. He gave us some parameters to work within. So the 6 of us got together and started brainstorming. Sounds like I was in a corporate office on the outside, doesn't it? We did our thing and it was good. We submitted a working plan to the Colonel. I worded the mission statement of the entire program and we sent the papers with one guy who worked at PRIDE customer support. He had it printed up for us. There were enough copies for the Colonel and the Captains and the LT's to read.
Institutional Betterment Programs
- 63-hour Wellness Education
- Recreational Sports
- Freshstart Smoking Cessation
- Law Library Program
- Library Program
- Gavel Club (inmate started and supervised)
- Victim Awareness Workshop
- Anger Resolution Seminar
- Anger Management Workshop
- Fatherhood Seminar
- Financial Peace University (inmate started and supervised)
- Inner Healing Workshop
- Re-Entry Dorm Program
- Small Business Concepts (part of our original lesson plans)
- People In Progress (part of our original lesson plans)
- Bridge Builders (part of our original lesson plans)
- Thinking for a Change (part of our original lesson plans)
- 100 – hour Transition Class
- Car Wash
- Medical Re-Entry Seminar
- Life Improvement Workshop
- Basic Life Principles (part of our original lesson plans)
- Library Re-Entry Services
- Mental Health Resources
- Raising Healthy Kids Workshop
It's very heartening to see that of the 8 we originally had, 5 have survived to this day. Success breed success. We even had an acronym for the entire study plan. L.E.A.P, Learning Experience & Advancement Program.
I was honored to have been part of the programs infancy. We all worked very hard to make it happen. That was me as the old guy in prison. You may see the name Calhoun C.I. when you pull up the link, but everyone in Region One in Florida called it "Camp Cupcake". No riots there when I was doing time. Officers transferred to "Camp Cupcake" to finish off their time at work and retire from there. The experiences that I had, both spiritual and secular I'll always keep with me. The bad stuff is old news.
Why are you looking at me when you ask this question?
It's the hair, isn't it?
I hate to say it, but the elderly that I saw in prison were generally victimized by the hard core scumbags, their things turning up missing with real regularity.
Our unit PoS, Lacey, liked to prey on the old guys. He'd steal anything that wasn't nailed down.
One particular fellow had enough one day and stood up to him... and I mean that literally. Lacey was five-six on a good day. When this particular older gentleman arose from his wheelchair with enough anger that his wobbling was controlled, he towered over Lacey. We were all shocked to find that the old guy was nearly seven foot tall. His arms, though no longer very strong, were long enough to reach clear across the hallway; he was just pissed enough he might've done some damage. Lacey, being a coward at heart, took off running and didn't bother the old fellow again.
Another old fellow hardly said a word to anyone. He wanted to die. He never went to chow or commissary. He spent weeks sleeping until he was too weak to get up for count. At that point they hauled him out. I've no idea where he went.
A bow-legged southern gentleman with a sharp sense of humor kept himself in excellent shape. He walked miles every day. In spite of this, breathing problems landed him in the hospital, where he was expensive to keep. The prison leans hard on the hospital to release inmates the very instant they can, often before they should. His pneumonia made several returns before he died in his cell a few months after I left.
If you have nobody else in the world, maybe prison wouldn't be so bad in old age. But if you hold out hope for even the slightest shred of human warmth, stay outside the walls.
Decades ago, I was in a train travelling from Brussels to Paris, and in front of me in the train were a young girl and an old man. The old man was scared of EVERYTHING, and the young lady was reassuring and explaining to him what he was seeing.
It was bizarre, She did not call him dad, and she obviously kept a mental distance from him. So I asked her (politely) what was happening to the old man. I am just too curious. The young lady told me that the old man had spent 30 years in jail for killing his wife, and it was his first day out. She was a social worker, and she was ill at ease.Her first murder case...
It is not about being elderly, it is about how long you have been in jail. You may not understand quite what thirty years mean: here are a few examples: do you know that since I am born, most countries have changed borders and often names?
I did my PhD with an instrument called a slide rule. It looks like this: I thought it was marvelous: the hand calculator was nor democratized yet.
It depends on how old they are:
If they have already retired it is quite nice, free healthcare, plenty of stuff to do all day long, some stuff actually happens. You feel that adrenaline shooting through your veins, when you get stabbed. You're also old, so who really cares if you die?
Though if they're more in the range of 50 years old, they probably want to see their children and grandchildren. They might also not feel the need to get stabbed, just to feel alive again. But what do I know, I am not an old person in prison.
If they're post-retirement it may actually be better. Healthcare assured, meals, a little drama to keep things interesting.
Colorado has a few. Compared to a retirement home they have more freedom. They weren't going out on the town and traveling much to begin with. They have come to be a little introverted.
In prison, if it is established they're not there from a sex offence, they are mostly left on their own. The excitement they find is mostly of their own seeking. More interesting friends. More people whom care.