Think of prisons and what comes to mind? Multistoried reinforced edifices surrounded by high, electrified fences and other natural protections, and guard towers that separate inmates from society. However, when inmates grow old or develop chronic diseases, these buildings, many without elevators, do not accommodate aging in place. Consequently, the sick and infirm (including those inmates with mental issues) take up beds in prison infirmaries.
To relieve this stress on the overcrowded prison system in California, the state is currently building a long-term care facility to house nearly 1,700 inmates. The California Health Care Facility—Stockton is designed as a single-story building. While secure and clustered around a control center, resident “cells” provide natural light that improves the quality of life. Walls are wide enough to accommodate monitoring technologies. Also, the property will have electric fences installed to provide additional security.
In a recent blog, UC--Berkeley Professor of Law Jonathan Simon notes, “Indeed, serious questions should be raised about why anyone who needs that much care, poses that little risk and has served enough time in prison to meet a modicum of penitence should be in prison at all."
It is estimated that the specialized facility will save the state millions of healthcare dollars. If successful, the facility might serve as a model for other states.