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NORTHWEST NEWS

Jeremy Christian Guilty of Killing 2 Who Tried to Stop His Slurs on Max

Today jurors found Christian guilty of the May 26, 2017 stabbing deaths of Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best

States Step Up Funding for Planned Parenthood Clinics

A spokesman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon said the agency has been "working closely with state officials to create critical backstops and protect access to care for all Oregonians who need it, regardless of federal action on Title X"

Oregon Denies Permit for Pipeline Before Federal Decision

Oregon's Department of Land Conservation and Development says a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay would have significant adverse effects on the state's coastal scenic and aesthetic resources, endangered species and critical habitat

Rep. Blumenauer Joined by Sens. Markey, Sanders, and Warren to Introduce Bill to Hold Big Oil Companies Accountable

"Amidst the growing climate emergency, closing this loophole is a small step we must take to hold Big Oil accountable and to protect our communities," said Blumenauer. 

NEWS BRIEFS

African American Initiative Breast Cancer Survivor Celebration to be Held Saturday

Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington celebrate breast cancer survivors in the African American community with a free gala this...

Dr. Karin Edwards Named New President of Clark College

Board of Trustees names Dr. Karin Edwards as the college’s 15th leader in its 87-year history ...

OneUnited Bank Launches New Limited-Edition Harriet Tubman Card

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Oregon House Votes to End Driver’s License Suspensions for Failure to Pay Fines

Bipartisan Vote Underscores Consensus for Reforms, Makes Way for Senate Action ...

Black History Month 2020: “African Americans and the Vote”

In our celebration of Black History Month 2020, the DPO Black Caucus looks forward to the screening of the award-winning documentary,...

Human remains found in Washington County

HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) — A passerby has discovered human remains in the woods in Washington County. The remains were discovered on Saturday and appear to have been there for some time, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said. The body was found south of the Tualatin Valley Highway on some...

Companies altered road test results given to Idaho agency

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Companies that are responsible for checking the quality of Idaho’s road materials have altered the results of their asphalt tests thousands of times, government documents show. Those changes may have allowed contractors that repair and build Idaho’s highway...

OPINION

Black America is Facing a Housing Crisis

As the cost of housing soars the homeless population jumps 12 percent, the number of people renting grows and homeownership falls ...

Trump Expands Muslim Ban to Target Africans

Under the new ban on countries, four out of five people who will be excluded are Africans ...

Martin Luther King Day is an Opportunity for Service

Find out where you can volunteer and make a difference to the community ...

Looking to 2020 — Put Your Vote to WORK!

Ronald Reagan, who turned his back on organized labor and started America’s middle-class into a tailspin, has recently been voted by this administration’s NLRB into the Labor Hall of Fame ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

The Latest: Biden says election can rip out roots of racism

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on presidential campaign developments (all times local):12:30 p.m.Joe Biden has told parishioners at a black church in North Charleston, South Carolina, that the 2020 presidential election can “rip out the roots of systemic racism” if voters help...

Carnival in Belgium again has Jewish stereotypes in parade

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Aalst Carnival parade included stereotypical depictionsof Jews for the second year in a row and the Belgian government said that the anti-Semitism in the three-day festival embarrassed the nation and endangers society. The Carnival was kicked off the United Nations'...

Sanders wins Nevada caucuses, takes national Democratic lead

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bernie Sanders scored a commanding victory in Nevada’s presidential caucuses, cementing his status as the Democrats' national front-runner but escalating tensions over whether he’s too liberal to defeat President Donald Trump. Joe Biden was a distant second,...

ENTERTAINMENT

'West Side Story' opening draws protesters on Broadway

NEW YORK (AP) — There was a chorus outside the Broadway Theatre on Thursday at the opening night of a new revival of “West Side Story” but what was being sung was a protest chant.A group of about 100 people demanded the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar, who was fired and...

Broadway's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' readies for Garden visit

NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Kyle Scatliffe has gone to Madison Square Garden plenty of times — for a Rangers game, a Muse concert and a WWE event. Next week, he's going back again, but this time he won't be in the seats.Scatliffe on Wednesday will be starring in the hit Broadway play...

OWN's 'Cherish the Day' is a rare celebration of black love

LOS ANGELES (AP) — To separate filmmaker and TV producer Ava DuVernay’s trenchant, history-driven projects, including “Selma” and “When They See Us,” from her new romantic drama series is to sell short the determined thoughtfulness that shapes all her...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Zamboni driver, 42, gets win as emergency goalie for 'Canes

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Self-styled daredevil dies in crash after rocket launch

BARSTOW, Calif. (AP) — A self-styled daredevil died Saturday after a rocket in which he launched himself...

Michigan sex-misconduct claims mirror Ohio State doctor case

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — When the University of Michigan announced last week that allegations of decades-old...

Germany's Hamburg city in elections marked by climate issues

BERLIN (AP) — Voters in Hamburg, Germany's second-biggest city, go to the polls Sunday to pick a new...

Pope cautions against 'unfair' Middle East peace plans

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has cautioned against “unfair” solutions aimed at ending the...

German, Dutch carnival parades called off due to weather

BERLIN (AP) — Several cities in western Germany canceled their traditional carnival parades at short notice...

McMenamins
David Crary AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- In corrections systems nationwide, officials are grappling with decisions about geriatric units, hospices and medical parole as elderly inmates - with their high rates of illness and infirmity - make up an ever increasing share of the prison population.

At a time of tight state budgets, it's a trend posing difficult dilemmas for policymakers. They must address soaring medical costs for these older inmates and ponder whether some can be safely released before their sentences expire.

The latest available figures from 2010 show that 8 percent of the prison population - 124,400 inmates - was 55 or older, compared to 3 percent in 1995, according to a report being released Friday by Human Rights Watch. This oldest segment grew at six times the rate of the overall prison population between 1995 and 2010, the report says.

"Prisons were never designed to be geriatric facilities," said Jamie Fellner, a Human Rights Watch special adviser who wrote the report. "Yet U.S. corrections officials now operate old age homes behind bars."

The main reasons for the trend, Fellner said, are the long sentences, including life without parole, that have become more common in recent decades, boosting the percentage of inmates unlikely to leave prison before reaching old age, if they leave at all. About one in 10 state inmates is serving a life sentence; an additional 11 percent have sentences longer than 20 years.

The report also notes an increase in the number of offenders entering prison for crimes committed when they were over 50. In Ohio, for example, the number of new prisoners in that age group jumped from 743 in 2000 to 1,815 in 2010, according to the report.

Fellner cited the case of Leonard Hudson, who entered a New York prison at age 68 in 2002 on a murder conviction and will be eligible for parole when he's 88. He's housed in a special unit for men with dementia and other cognitive impairments, Fellner said.

A.T. Wall, director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and president of the Association of State Correctional Administrators, said he and his colleagues regularly exchange ideas on how to cope with the surging numbers of older prisoners.

"We are accustomed to managing large numbers of inmates, and it's a challenge to identify particular practices that need to be put into place for a subset," he said. "There are no easy solutions."

Wall said prison officials confront such questions as whether to retrofit some cells with grab bars and handicap toilets, how to accommodate inmates' wheelchairs, and how to deal with inmates who no longer understand instructions.

"Dementia can set in, and an inmate who was formerly easy to manage becomes very difficult to manage," he said.

States are trying to meet the needs. Some examples:

-Washington state opened an assisted living facility at its Coyote Ridge prison complex in 2010, with a capacity of 74 inmates. It's reserved for inmates with a disability who are deemed to pose little security risk.

-The Louisiana State Penitentiary has had a hospice program for more than a decade, staffed by fellow prisoners who provide dying inmates with care ranging from changing diapers to saying prayers.

-In Massachusetts, a new corrections master plan proposes one or more new facilities to house aging inmates who need significant help with daily living. Some critics object, saying inmates shouldn't get specialized care that might not be available or affordable for members of the public.

-Montana's corrections department is seeking bids for a 120-bed prison that would include assisted-living facilities for some elderly inmates and others who need special care.

In Texas, legislators have been considering several options for addressing the needs of infirm, elderly inmates. State Rep. Jerry Madden, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, said no decisions have been made as the experts try to balance cost factors and public safety.

"You can't just generalize about these prisoners," he said. "Some are still extremely dangerous, some may not be.... Some you wouldn't want in the same assisted living facility with your parents or grandparents."

Fellner, who visited nine states and 20 prisons during her research, said corrections officials often were constrained by tight budgets, lack of support from elected officials, and prison architecture not designed to accommodate the elderly.

She noted that prison policies traditionally were geared to treat all inmates on an equal basis. So it may not be easy for prison officials to consider special accommodations for aging inmates, whether it be extra blankets, shortcuts to reduce walking distance, or sparing them from assignments to upper bunks.

The report said the number of aging prisoners will continue to grow unless there are changes to tough-on-crime policies such as long mandatory sentences and reduced opportunities for parole.

"How are justice and public safety served by the continued incarceration of men and women whose bodies and minds have been whittled away by age?" Fellner asked.

One of the problems facing prisons is that many of their health care staff lack expertise in caring for the elderly, according to Linda Redford, director of the geriatric education center at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

"It's a big struggle for them to keep up," said Redford, who has helped train prison staff and inmates in geriatric care.

"They're used to having to deal with issues of younger prisoners, such as HIV and substance abuse," she said.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, inmates are guaranteed decent medical care, but they lack their own insurance and states must pay the full cost. In Georgia, according to Fellner's report, inmates 65 and older had an average yearly medical cost of $8,565, compared with $961 for those under 65.

Redford said the challenges are compounded because inmates' health tends to decline more rapidly than that of other Americans of the same age due to long-term problems with drug use and poor health care.

"In the general population, 65 doesn't seem that old," Redford said. "In prison, there are 55-year-olds looking like they're 75."

Many states have adopted early release programs targeted at older inmates who are judged to pose little threat to public safety. However, a 2010 study by the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City found the laws were used infrequently, in part because of political considerations and complex review procedures.

Redford said a common problem is finding nursing homes or other assisted-living facilities that will accept released inmates who have family to live with.

"Nursing homes don't want former felons," she said. "Some states are looking at starting long-term care facilities outside prison for that could take care of parolees."

For inmates who are terminally ill and have no close family on the outside, it's probably more humane to let them die in prison if there's a hospice program available, Redford said.

"The inmates who are volunteering are at those guys' sides when they die - they're really committed to making the last days as comfortable as possible," Redford said. "They're not going to get that on the outside."

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Online:

Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/

Association of State Correctional Administrators: http://www.asca.net/

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David Crary can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

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