WTVY  | Dothan, AL  | Politics, News

Fla. Lawmakers Push to Release Some Elderly Inmates Early

Florida's a Mecca for retirees. You'll find them in condos, on golf courses, out boating or playing pool, but more than a few are behind bars.

Right now, Florida has nearly 100 inmates who are over 60 and have been locked up for at least 25 years. Many of them have very expensive health problems, and that's why democratic state Senator Chris Smith has a bill that would allow them to apply for early release.

"The cost to house and give them medical treatment in prison is four, five times the cost if they were out of prison, say, in a nursing home or somewhere," Sen. Smith said. "There's no chance of re-offending and it's a tremendous cost savings to the state."

On average, $100,000 a year for every elderly prisoner released.

Time, especially 25 years or more of it, can do wonders to change hearts and minds. And the older you get, the more enlightened you tend to be, but around here that's not always the case.

It's a reality Jim Hinson knows all too well. He's worked in many of Florida's prison hospitals, and he'll tell you while taking care of older inmates can be expensive, there could be a far greater public safety cost to letting them out.

"I would not just summarily say that after a certain age, we don't need to keep inmates in prison. Age is not necessarily a factor of repentance."

The bill does have a review process elderly inmates would have to pass before they could be released, but even that may not be enough to appease tough-on-crime lawmakers.

What happens next could depend on their appetite for money and forgiveness.

Under the bill, the Florida Parole Commission would have the final say on whether an elderly inmate can be granted early release.


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