The Fishkill state prison in New York is credited with being the first prison in New York, and possibly the country to specialize in dementia-related conditions. Located 70 miles north of New York City, the medium-security prison houses 1,700 inmates. There, they can receive anything from basic throat cultures to long-term care. These accommodations are being made as the average age of patients at the prison is 62. The nationwide average of prison inmates is 36.

The third floor of the prison’s medical center has had 30 beds available for the prisoners since opening in October. Twenty inmates from around the state are currently being treated in this new facility. Workers on the Fishkill unit, including nurses, corrections officers, and housekeepers go through a 40-hour training course when hired to learn how to work with these prisoners. All have some form of demensia which is related to Alzheimer’s or AIDS. One patient has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and another has Huntington’s disease. Others have psychiatric or other medical disorders. It is said that some cannot even remember their crimes.

When being considered for the program, the men’s crimes are disregarded, but their prison record is closely looked at. This is to ensure that all of the inmates receive the right care and are being looked after in a safe environment. Twenty years ago, inmates age 50 and over made up 3 percent of the prison population. Last year, these men accounted for 11 percent of the population. Because of the aging of these men, Fishkill may help to spark awareness to other prisons that such programs need to extend in the future. Such a program reminds us that prisons are not merely holding cells but small towns whose inhabitants need to be taken care of, no matter what crimes they have committed in the past.

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