A lot of states have searchable online databases where you can look up information about people who are in prison. I was checking out Florida’s and it’s actually kind of interesting. You can search by name, age, type of offense, race and other items. I think I will try looking in state inmate databases for the names of suspects that are mentioned on Charley, so I can get their pictures and stuff and maybe learn more about the cases.
What I found most noteworthy in the Florida database is the imprisoned geriatrics. I found 272 people listed who are over 75. The oldest inmate I could find was one Samuel A. Bowman, born October 9, 1922. He’s been in prison since 2006 for strongarm rape and sexual battery on a victim under 12, and he is never getting out.
Of course, I am all in favor of punishing wrongdoers — certainly when the said wrongdoers are murderers or rapists — but one has to wonder what the point is in putting really really old people in jail. I mean, my grandparents live in a nursing home and it wouldn’t be that big of a step for them to go to jail, since they are already pretty much stuck in the home unless someone takes them out for a day visit somewhere. They can’t go anywhere overnight cause none of us can see to all their medical needs. Grandpa can walk only a little, and Grandma can’t even stand up. I suppose there really isn’t any good way to punish an elderly criminal. It’s like in one of the Saw movies, the guy says, “I’m a terminal cancer patient. What can you possibly do to me?”
Some of those people have been in for so long that it would probably not be doing them a favor to let them out. The culture shock would be tremendous — it would be like Rip Van Winkle. (Though my friend John pointed out that if you released such a person and followed them around with a camera, it would make a good reality show.) These people would have to relearn how to make their own food, do their own laundry, balance a checkbook, etc. All the choices they make could potentially paralyze them — even something as simple as choosing what clothes to wear today is something most prisoners aren’t able to do.
I read an article recently about a guy who’s been in prison since the age of 13, in solitary confinement much of the time. He was doing life without parole (he shot someone, non-fatally, during a mugging) but owing to a recent Supreme Court ruling that it’s cruel and unusual punishment to give juveniles life without parole if they didn’t kill anyone, they are having to prepare this man for release. They’re trying to take it in little baby steps — like, right now they’re giving him access to the prison commissary to select his own snacks, and so on. But I’m afraid the real world is really going to smack him in the face once he gets out. He has no education and no immediate family left on the outside, and he’s had very little contact with any humans at all for the past thirty or so years.
In the Florida database I saw one man who’s 74 and has been in prison since 1961, and a woman who’s almost 77 and has been in since 1968. I saw a guy who’s also been locked up since 1968; he was originally incarcerated in 1946, paroled in 1957, then returned to prison in 1968. I guess he violated his parole. He’s also in for rape. I saw another guy who was just sent in this year but won’t be eligible for parole until 2038, by which time he will be 110 years old.
It seems like after you’re in prison for as long as that, prison ceases to be a punishment and simply becomes a way of life. Like, most people in the USA would consider it a severe punishment if they were sent to some primitive and/or disease-ridden third world country like, say, Kiribati or Mali, to live without any amenities. But for the Malians and Kiribatians, it’s just how things are.