Commentary: No place for old men

Quite recently, during the height of the ravaging COVID-19 crisis, an American health care agency announced a series of projects and programs designed to ease human suffering and indeed to advocate for the abolition of the systems of mass incarceration. The American Public Health Association, known as APHA, watching the harrowing number of deaths in prisons, is determined that the age of abolition has come and has called for the release of the encaged elderly.

One of the vagaries of mass incarceration is the explosion of the elderly as part of the prison population. Today, men in their seventies and eighties roll around here in wheelchairs or hobble on walkers or even stroll with the help of canes. They have a host of health problems, from diabetes, which is quite prevalent, to COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease] from heart attacks and ailments like cancer.

The APHA has advanced the novel idea that the elderly in prisons have been subjected to “elder abuse” by the state in all the ways they have been mistreated and maltreated, for they are subjected to solitary confinement, to aching joints, to the natural frailties of old age. And APHA has urged that elderly prisoners be made free of “elder abuse“ by release from confinement. They have urged this upon state, county, federal and territorial prisons, jails and institutions of detention.

With love, not phear, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal


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