Canadian Prisons Seek Solutions for Graying Inmates

Aging brings about an agreed-upon segregation. Older adults seek to leave their work and find more comfortable living arrangements, in retirement residences like Assisted Lifestyle and Continuing Care. Different expectations are given to an aging population compared to the younger, up-and-coming generation.

This natural trend has been found to be missing in Canadian penal institutions and is being remedied through a North Nevada program, "True Grit". Inmate Cecil Williams told that the program consisted of "no stealing, no thievery, no bulldoggin', no bullying." He added: "We don't have none of that stuff because we're all the in the same age bracket."

Beyond the segregation, "True Grit" engages older inmates in diversion therapy, like crocheting and creative writing classes, activities that have been found to reduce the dependency on prescription drugs. The program is for men between the ages of 55 and 86.

Mary Harrison, Nevada's sex offender co-ordinator and staff psychologist at the North Nevada Correctional Centre, is the creator of "True Grit".

"When I was transferred up here in January of 2004," Harrison told, "I walked into the unit and at the time we had a lot of our men just lying in bed or they were sitting in wheelchairs in the rotunda, just sleeping." Their inactivity meant they were not performing duties necessary for consideration for parole.

"We don't want to be a nursing home where someone's going to stay here and die," Harrison told the media source. "If they're going to come in here into this program they will take responsibility for the crime. That needs to happen so that we can get them involved in the programs that they can take so that they're eligible for parole."

Detractors say that such humane practices are wasted on prisoners who have committed serious crimes; the program isn't gritty enough.

Harrison focuses on the positive aspects of the program. Inmates are healthier and in better shape, less money is being spent on prescription medications and trips to the doctor.