If Bill Cosby goes to jail, he’ll be one of many older Americans in the prison system


Comedian Bill Cosby is facing 30 years in prison, and when he starts his sentence he will be far from the only senior citizen there.

A jury found 80-year-old Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and assaulting a woman 30 years younger than him in 2004, though he has been accused of doing the same to about 60 other women. The date for his sentencing has not yet been announced. His attorney said he’ll appeal the verdict.

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About 11% of the U.S. state and federal prison population (or 160,000 people) is over 55 years old, 38,000 of whom are older than 65. By 2030, that figure will rise to 33%, or more than 400,000 people age 55 and older in prison, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The number of prisoners 55 and up has jumped 400% between 1993 and 2013, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Why? Because older prisoners, like Cosby would be, are serving longer sentences (mostly for violent offenses) and because the number of older people admitted to jails has increased, according to the bureau’s 2016 report. Sentences are usually longer for older people than other prisoners: older ones saw an average sentence length of 82 months (six years and 10 months) in 2013, compared to prisoners 18 to 39 who had an average sentence lof 69 months (five years and nine months), according to the ACLU. For inmates aged 40 to 54, it was 71 months (five years and 11 months). Admission of people 55 and older increased 82% between 2003 and 2013. The government is also instituting longer sentences and more limited parole, according to the ACLU.

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Prisons are transforming to accommodate an older inmates. Some states have installed wheelchair ramps and shower handles, while others have created assisted living centers with full-time nursing staff, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. At least 75 prisons include hospice care, too.

And when older inmates do make it out of prison later in life, they often don’t have the means to generate retirement income. About 69% of previously-incarcerated older Americans said they felt anxious about retirement savings, compared to 52% of those who didn’t serve time, according to a 2017 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.