Prisoners of Age

19th Oct - 21 Nov

Brisbane Powerhouse

Prisoners of Age presents the stories of some of the most marginalized members of our society in their own words, revealing much of themselves. What we as a society decide to do about them reveals just as much of ourselves. It is our ambition that we can persuade a younger audience to avoid making the same mistakes that doomed so many of these inmates.

More than two million North Americans are now behind bars, an estimated 35 percent of them edging far past middle age. “Prisoners of Age” offers a microcosmic glimpse of what lies ahead in this new millennium. Existing prison space is in serious decline, bunk space and medical costs are soaring. Geriatric inmates comprise the fastest growing age group in the United States. Statistically, the risk of recidivism decreases significantly with age. Within a year of release, inmates between the ages of 18 and 24 have a recidivism rate of 22 percent. For inmates over the age of 43, the rate drops to two percent. After the age of 55, recidivism drops to below one percent. In the United States, the average expense of medical care and maintenance for inmates over 55 is $79,000 per year, about four times the norm. Meanwhile, the people who manage North America’s prison system are worrying more and more about how to handle the imminent explosion in the geriatric population.

Prisoners of Age is a series of photographs and interviews with elderly inmates and corrections personnel conducted in prisons both in the United States and Canada from 1996 to 2004.

The exhibition and 208-page companion book serve to capture the complexity of a subject that is seldom contemplated – aging offenders in the correctional system. The project explores the socio-economic causes of crime and delinquency, encouraging visitors to consider the human dimension of doing time while growing old in prison; the objective being to open the eyes of the public, to play a role in stimulating social and institutional change by addressing these issues of social justice and human dignity through images and interviews.

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