(1) The Legislature finds that the number and percentage of elderly offenders in the Florida prison system are increasing and will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. The current cost to incarcerate elderly offenders is approximately three times the cost of incarceration of younger inmates. Alternatives to the current approaches to housing, programming, and treating the medical needs of elderly offenders, which may reduce the overall costs associated with this segment of the prison population, must be explored and implemented.
(2) The department shall establish and operate geriatric facilities or geriatric dorms within a facility for generally healthy elderly offenders who can perform general work appropriate for their physical and mental condition.
(a) In order to decrease long-term medical costs to the state, a preventive fitness/wellness program and diet specifically designed to maintain the mental and physical health of elderly offenders shall be developed and implemented. In developing the program, the department shall give consideration to preventive medical care for the elderly which shall include, but not be limited to, maintenance of bone density, all aspects of cardiovascular health, lung capacity, mental alertness, and orientation. Existing policies and procedures shall be reexamined and altered to encourage offenders to adopt a more healthy lifestyle and maximize their level of functioning. The program components shall be modified as data and experience are received that measure the relative success of the program components previously implemented.
(b) Consideration must be given to redirecting resources as a method of offsetting increased medical costs. Elderly offenders are not likely to reenter society as a part of the workforce, and programming resources would be better spent in activities to keep the elderly offenders healthy, alert, and oriented. Limited or restricted programming or activities for elderly offenders will increase the daily cost of institutional and health care, and programming opportunities adequate to reduce the cost of care will be provided. Programming shall include, but not be limited to, recreation, education, and counseling that is needs-specific to elderly offenders. Institutional staff shall be specifically trained to effectively supervise elderly offenders and to detect physical or mental changes that warrant medical attention before more serious problems develop.
(3) The department shall adopt rules that specify which elderly offenders shall be eligible to be housed at the geriatric correctional facilities or dorms.
(4) While developing the criteria for eligibility, the department shall use the information in existing offender databases to determine the number of offenders who would be eligible. The Legislature directs the department to consider a broad range of elderly offenders for the department’s geriatric facilities or dorms who have good disciplinary records and a medical grade that will permit them to perform meaningful work activities, including participation in an appropriate correctional work program (PRIDE) facility, if available.
(5) The department shall also submit a study based on existing offenders that projects the number of existing offenders who will qualify under the rules. An appendix to the study shall identify the specific offenders who qualify.