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True Grit: An Innovative Program for Elderly Inmates

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Magazine Volume: 68 Issue: 7 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 46-49
Mary T. Harrison
Date Published
December 2006
4 pages
This article describes the Northern Nevada Correctional Center’s (NNCC’s) True Grit Senior Structured Living Program for elderly inmates.
The population of elderly inmates is increasing nationwide and the rate of increase is only expected to accelerate in coming years. Over 300 of the NNCC’s 1,250 offenders are over the age of 50 years, which is considered in the “senior” category for incarcerated individuals. In an effort to be more responsive to the needs of elderly inmates, who cost much more to incarcerate than younger inmates, the NNCC created the True Grit program, which was designed to enhance elderly inmates’: (1) physical health through recreational and physical therapy activities; (2) mental health, through group, individual, and self-help therapies; and (3) spiritual health through unique programming coordinated with the prison chaplain and volunteers. Program participants are 60 years or older. The program involves daily activities, but daily participation is only encouraged, not required. Some of the activities include sports events, performance plays, time with companion dogs, and crafts. The program encourages camaraderie among the elderly inmates, who often become close and support one another. While numerical data are still being collected, preliminary analysis indicates that the number of infirmary visits for program participants has decreased along with the use of psychotropic and psychoactive medication. Participants have reported elevated feelings of well-being and reduced fear of dying alone in prison. Future plans for the program include the provision of mental health assessments. Exhibits, endnotes


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