Factors in criminal behavior by the elderly are mental illness, alcohol abuse, social isolation, and inability to cope with stress. Inmates 50 years or older housed in various Federal prisons during January 1989 were mostly committed for nonviolent offenses. The largest number were institutionalized for drug-related offenses. Although older inmates are housed in institutions with inmates of all ages, special programs have been developed to serve their needs. Since adequate health care is mandated by law and most older inmates return to the community -- some seeking employment, others social security benefits -- the Bureau of Prisons has recognized that older offenders need more assistance and support than younger offenders. Living quarters in prisons are designed to protect the older inmates from physical and health ailments. Appropriate heating, lighting, and easy accessibility to bathrooms and sleeping space are provided. There is still a need for educational, vocational, recreational, and rehabilitation programs to be expanded to accommodate the needs of the elderly. 14 references.