Geriatrics and the Legal System [2017]

Correctional systems, already struggling to meet the basic and functional requirements of older prisoners, will be further challenged by the increasing medical and psychiatric needs of this population. Mental health and general medical care for older adults requires specific on-site or consultation expertise in geriatric medicine and psychiatry, as well as potential changes in infrastructure, both of which may be prohibitively expensive. However, compassionate and effective treatment of older prisoners requires that prison and legal systems facilitate this expert care. To address this situation, strategic revisions of the criminal justice system are needed to alleviate prison overcrowding and consequent inadequate medical care for inmates, especially the elder ones. The unique, age-related demands of this older population predict an increased need for forensic psychiatrists with a thorough knowledge and expertise in geriatrics, as more forensic psychiatric evaluations will be needed before trial in both civil and criminal cases, during incarceration, and at the time of parole. In this article, we review the current state of elder inmates in correctional institutions and advocate for increased geriatric training for forensic psychiatrists in anticipation of this growing need.

Stephanie C. Yarnell, Paul D. Kirwin and Howard V. Zonana

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, June 2017, 45 (2)