The Academic Minute The Academic Minute features researchers from colleges and universities around the world, keeping listeners abreast of what's new and exciting in the academy and of all the ways academic research contributes to solving the world's toughest problems and to serving the public good.

The Academic Minute

From WAMC Northeast Public Radio

The Academic Minute features researchers from colleges and universities around the world, keeping listeners abreast of what's new and exciting in the academy and of all the ways academic research contributes to solving the world's toughest problems and to serving the public good.

Most Recent Episodes

Miki Amitay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Expanding Wind Energy

On Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Week: Should wind turbines breathe like our lungs do? Miki Amitay, associate professor in the department of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering, discusses this question. Professor Amitay's research is focused on Experimental Fluid Mechanics, especially experimental flow control and Aerodynamics. His research interests are in developing flow control technologies for aeronautical/mechanical systems, including Manned and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Underwater Vehicles, Wind Turbines, and more. His research has been supported by both government agencies and private industry, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Office of Naval Research (ONR), Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Intel, and more. Expanding Wind Energy https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/05-08-19-RPI-Expanding-Wind-Energy.mp3 There is a huge interest in capturing green means for energy without using fossil fuels. One way to do that is to increase the size of wind turbines, so they can generate more energy. One of the challenges with that is as the turbines become bigger and bigger, the blades become more prone to turbulence in the air, wind gusts, and the change of direction of the wind – all of which can cause structural damage. We have developed techniques to detect conditions where the blades might be damaged and actively mitigate those adverse effects through controlled pulses of air that are generated by electricity. The mechanism by which we create those active puffs of air is similar to the way our lungs work. Air flows in and out of openings on the blades' surface, which create pulses of controlled jets using only a small amount of power, just 5 watts per jet. As a comparison, a typical light bulb at home is 60 watts. Using the same technology, we can also increase the use of wind turbines in areas where the environment has traditionally been a barrier. The controlled jets enable the turbine blades to operate efficiently even in high wind, or where wind is not sufficient. This technology has attracted a lot of interest from large wind turbine companies and has recently been successfully tested on a full-scale wind turbine in the field for a full year.

Miki Amitay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Expanding Wind Energy

Richard Gross, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Recyclable By Design

On Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Week: Plastics that degrade naturally could be a lifesaver for our planet. Richard Gross, professor in the department of chemistry and biology, looks into how to get there. Professor Gross received his Ph.D. from 'Brooklyn Poly' (Polytechnic University) working on Polymer Stereochemistry (synthetic chemistry) and then performed postdoctoral research with Robert Lenz at UMASS Amherst on the synthesis/properties of polyhydroxyalkanoates (i.e. bacterial polyesters). His research is motivated by the urgent need to develop sustainable chemicals and materials to meet the demands of a rapidly rising global population while mitigating risks of increased green-house gas emissions asociated with climate change. Gross is focusing the groups inventiveness on research that has the potential to revolutionize the way we synthesize next-generation chemicals and materials as well as improve human health. For this purpose, the group is combining the best chemical and biocatalysts to develop efficient green routes to low molar mass molecules, polymers and materials. He is also applying green chemistry principles to develop next-generation therapeutics. For this, we look to nature for tailorable bioactives and use a variety of tools to create matrices for tissue engineering and bioresorbable biomaterials. The result of our emphasis on implementing green chemical principles is the development of synthetic routes that operate under mild reaction conditions (e.g. low temperature, ambient pressure, avoid toxic reagents) that increase worker safety, improve reaction efficiencies (i.e. atom economy) while avoiding protection-deprotection steps. By working this way we increase the chance that we develop will be scalable and used. Recyclable By Design https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/05-07-19-RPI-Recycable-By-Design.mp3 Synthetic plastics are made from oil. A fact that poses a number of problems. They aren't easily degraded by microbes. Furthermore, only 10% of disposed plastic are re-used. But even worse, they are often down-cycled, lowering their value. Disposed down-cycled products then enter landfills, where they remain for hundreds of years. We desperately need plastics that have the performance benefits of synthetic materials, but that can be broken down by safe and mild processes to their original building blocks for reuse. My lab is pursuing this goal through several strategies. We are developing fully bio-degradable, bio-based polymers with properties that resemble polyethylene. We have improved the efficiency of a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down PET to its building blocks. A process that allows for multiple cycles of PET reuse as high quality PET. And now we are extending these strategies to other high-volume synthetic plastics. For example, since polystyrene and phenol formaldehyde resins resemble natural lignin, we are using natural lignin degrading enzymes to catalyze their breakdown. Plastic pollution is a real threat to our environment. Plastic islands have formed in our oceans and micro plastics are entering our food chain and threaten marine life. It is critical that we focus on effective options for plastic multi-cycle reuse. So that plastic waste moves from a problem to a profitable resource.

Richard Gross, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Recyclable By Design

Gilbert Metcalf, Tufts University – Carbon Tax

A carbon tax could be a boon to our economy. Gilbert Metcalf, professor of citizenship and public service at Tufts University, examines how to go about executing this tough task. Gilbert E. Metcalf is the John DiBiaggio Professor of Citizenship and Public Service and Professor of Economics at Tufts University. In addition, he is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a University Fellow at Resources For The Future. Metcalf's primary research area is applied public finance with particular interests in taxation, energy, and environmental economics. His current research focuses on policy evaluation and design in the area of energy and climate change. He has frequently testified before Congress, served on expert panels for the National Academies of Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and served as a consultant to numerous other organizations. During 2011 and 2012, he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy at the U.S. Department of Treasury where he was the founding U.S. Board Member for the UN based Green Climate Fund. He has published extensively in academic journals and books on various topics including energy and tax policy. Metcalf received a B.A. in Mathematics from Amherst College, an M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. Carbon Tax https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/05-03-19-Tufts-Carbon-Tax.mp3 Most economists favor taxing carbon dioxide to cut greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax makes fossil fuels like oil and coal more expensive. That, in turn, leads consumers and industries to use less. And, it boosts demand for alternative energy sources like wind and solar powered electricity. But recent events in France suggest this could be a hard sell. French President Emmanuel Macron backed down on new carbon taxes in response to violent street riots that shocked the country and left four protesters dead. President Trump promptly tweeted that the riots confirmed his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. The Wall Street Journal went further by characterizing the Yellow Vest riots as part of a "global carbon tax revolt." Nothing could be further from the truth. Fairness is central to the French protests. Macron's government had previously cut taxes on the wealthy while increasing taxes on working people. People were already angry. The hike in fuel taxes poured fuel on those flames. Framing the increase as an environmental tax didn't help. "We're not anti-environmental," a movement organizer said. "This is a movement against abusive taxation, period." Designed correctly, a carbon tax can cut our carbon pollution, make the tax code fairer, and create jobs. Right now there are more than twice as many jobs in solar technology alone than in coal mining. It can also help the economy. Despite a roughly $135-per-ton tax on carbon dioxide, Sweden's economy is growing as fast, if not faster than ours. Meanwhile its emissions have fallen by one-quarter while ours have barely budged. Clearly a carbon tax will not be an easy political lift. But there are ways to overcome the political headwinds. A carbon tax that is revenue neutral, contributes to fairness, streamlines climate policy, and cuts emissions significantly could help. Economists know how to do this and stand ready to help when Congress is ready to act.

Gilbert Metcalf, Tufts University – Carbon Tax

Fletcher McClellan, Elizabethtown College – Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom can say a lot about the recipient, and the president giving it. Fletcher McLellan, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College, has more. Fletcher McClellan is Professor of Political Science at Elizabethtown College. A member of the Elizabethtown faculty for over 35 years, he served in many leadership roles at the College, including Dean of Faculty, Interim Provost, and department chair. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. His areas of teaching and research include the American presidency, public policy, and teaching and learning in political science. He is the 2018 recipient of the Craig L. Brians Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Mentorship, awarded by the Political Science Education Section of the American Political Science Association. Presidential Medal of Freedom https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/05-02-19-Elizabethtown-Presidental-Medal-of-Honor.mp3 The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. Established by President John F. Kennedy, the award celebrates the achievements of people who have made important contributions to our culture and civic life. Because the president selects Medal of Freedom recipients with total discretion – American or otherwise, living or dead –- this award also says a lot about the president himself. My colleagues and I analyzed every Presidential Medal of Freedom ever awarded, nearly 600 to date, and the presidents who issued them – including Donald Trump, who awarded seven medals, his first-ever, in November. Who gets a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Much of it depends on whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican, but this isn't always the case. For instance, presidents from both parties often pick politicians and public servants. Not surprisingly, these awards usually go to a president's political allies. For example, President Trump honored Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We also see clear partisan differences. Democratic presidents are more likely to bestow the award to civil rights leaders, labor organizers, and people of color. Republicans are more disposed to honor military leaders. In other words, presidents tend to award medals to members of their party's key constituency groups. President Trump's most unusual recipients were cultural icons Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley, who died decades ago. These choices provide us with unique perspective on what Make America Great Again means to Trump personally. The Presidential Medal of Freedom provides presidents the opportunity to shape their legacy through association with people who represent the best the US and the world have to offer. Ultimately, the award reflects what we citizens value most in our leaders and ourselves.

Fletcher McClellan, Elizabethtown College – Presidential Medal of Freedom

Jordan DeVylder, Fordham University – The Impact of Police Violence on Public Mental Health

Exposure to police violence can leave a lasting mark on a victim's mind. Jordan DeVylder, associate professor at the graduate school of social service at Fordham University, discusses how psychological distress can linger after an encounter. Jordan DeVylder is an Associate Professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. He has been on faculty since 2017. He received his MSW and PhD in Social Work from Columbia University, his MS in Cognition & Brain Science from Georgia Institute of Technology, and his BA in Psychology from New York University. He was previously employed at the University of Maryland School of Social Work as Assistant Professor, and as a clinician/researcher at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. DeVylder's research is focused on preventive mental health, with a particular emphasis on psychosis and suicide. His research on the clinical significance of early psychotic symptoms has been published in leading social work and psychiatry journals, including JAMA Psychiatry, World Psychiatry, and Schizophrenia Bulletin. He is currently conducting a randomized trial to test an intervention to improve the detection of untreated psychosis by social workers employed in community settings, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. In suicide prevention research, he has funding from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to examine sub-clinical psychosis as an indicator of suicide risk among adolescents receiving emergency health services in Baltimore. He has several ongoing projects focused on the epidemiology of psychosis, examining the role of stress, urban upbringing, and crime victimization in psychosis etiology in the United States and internationally. He has more recently focused on studying the impact of police violence from a public mental health perspective, finding that exposure to police violence is associated with notably elevated levels of psychological distress, delusional thoughts, and suicidal behavior. The Impact of Police Violence on Public Mental Health https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/05-01-19-Fordham-The-Impact-of-Police-Violence-on-Public-Mental-Health.mp3 The contentious debate around police violence in the United States has focused almost exclusively on mortality. But the more pervasive effect on the mental health of communities that face high rates of police violence has gone largely unacknowledged. We conducted the Survey of Police Public Encounters to better understand the prevalence of police violence among a general-population sample of adults living in Baltimore and New York City, focusing on disparities in police violence exposure and its association with mental health difficulties. We found that the self-reported rates of police violence exposure were unexpectedly high. More than 7 percent of respondents reported a physical encounter with police over the past year, and 3 percent reported sexual violence from a police officer. 13 percent reported psychological victimization and 15 percent stated they experienced neglect. Fitting the current media narrative, all forms of violence exposure were indeed more commonly reported among people of color, particularly Black and Latino respondents. Prevalence was also higher among male and transgender respondents, and among younger adults aged 18-24. We also found that respondents exposed to police violence were significantly more likely to report concurrent psychological distress and suicidal behavior, and to endorse symptoms called "psychotic experiences," which are indicators of psychosis vulnerability that have been shown to be highly sensitive to social trauma. All mental health outcomes were more common among respondents who were exposed to physical violence with a weapon or sexual violence, suggesting that these symptoms result from the stress and trauma of an assaultive encounter. This study suggests that greater training on conflict de-escalation for police officers, the use of crisis intervention teams for high-risk encounters, and the provision of trauma-informed mental health services to victims of police violence are all needed for protecting community mental health.

Jordan DeVylder, Fordham University – The Impact of Police Violence on Public Mental Health

Marlene Daut, University of Virginia – Constitutional History of Haiti

The history of Haiti may surprise you. Marlene Daut, associate professor of African diaspora studies at the University of Virginia, has more. Marlene L. Daut is Associate Professor of African Diaspora Studies at the University of Virginia, where she also serves as the Associate Director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies. She is the author of Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865 (2015) and Baron de Vastey and the Origins of Black Atlantic Humanism (2017). She is currently co-editing An Anthology of Haitian Revolutionary Fictions (Age of Slavery), forthcoming from the University of Virginia Press. Daut is the co-creator and co-editor of H-Net Commons' digital platform, H-Haiti. She also curates a website on early Haitian print culture at http://lagazetteroyale.com, and she has developed an online bibliography of fictions of the Haitian Revolution from 1787 to 1900 at the website http://haitianrevolutionaryfictions.com. Constitutional History of Haiti https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/04-30-19-Virginia-Wakanda-of-the-Western-Hemisphere.mp3 On Jan. 1, 1804, the French colony of Saint-Domingue declared itself free from slavery and independent from France. The leader of the revolutionaries, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, had defeated Napoléon's famous army during what was at the time the largest expedition to ever set sail from France. In the subsequent Declaration of Independence, Dessalines changed the former French colony's name back to its indigenous appellation, Haïti, and announced, "I have avenged America." In the process of establishing a land of liberty in a world of slavery, Haitians were compelled to develop profoundly new ways of thinking about governance. Even though Haiti's first constitution made Dessalines an emperor, it contained a bold anti-colonial clause that barred Haiti's ruler from expanding the boundaries of the new country. Article 36 of Haiti's first constitution states that "the emperor will never form any enterprise with the goal of conquest." This article enacted into law the anti-colonial ideals first expressed in the Haitian Declaration of Independence: "Let us guard against the spirit of proselytizing," it reads, "let us leave in tranquil repose our neighbors, for we are not going to [...] erect ourselves as legislators of the Caribbean." Haiti subsequently became not only the first state to permanently outlaw slavery and to ban imperial rule, but to try to criminalize color prejudice. The first sentence of article 14 of the Constitution states, "All distinctions of color [...] must necessarily cease." In a 21st-century world accustomed to viewing Haiti through the lenses of poverty, dependency, and disaster, it is important to recognize how Haitian independence challenged the contradictions of the western European Enlightenment, which had pronounced liberty and equality to be only for white men. Haitian independence remains the most significant development in the history of modern democracy, as the theories undergirding it continue to define contemporary political ideas about what it means to be free.

Marlene Daut, University of Virginia – Constitutional History of Haiti

Anne Roschelle, SUNY New Paltz – The Humanitarian Crisis at the Border

SUNY New Paltz Faculty & Staff Portraits We've all heard about the fate of the children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Anne Roschelle, professor of sociology at SUNY New Paltz, looks at this sensitive situation. Anne R. Roschelle is a Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Dr. Roschelle's research and teaching interests include racial ethnic families, poverty and homelessness, race, class, and gender inequality, and welfare reform. In addition, Anne has conducted research in Cuba and Guatemala. Dr. Roschelle is the author of No More Kin: Exploring Race, Class, and Gender in Family Networks (Sage, 1997), which was a recipient of Choice Magazines 1997 Outstanding Academic Book Award. Anne has published numerous journal articles and has recently completed a book on homeless families in San Francisco, which will be published in fall 2019 (Lexington Books). Dr. Roschelle's new research focuses on unaccompanied minors in the Hudson Valley, immigration, and deportation. The Humanitarian Crisis at the Border https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/04-29-19-SUNY-New-Paltz-The-Humanitarian-Crisis-at-the-Border.mp3 The massive surge of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala is a humanitarian crisis. Beginning in 2011, the United States government reported a dramatic rise in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the southwest border of the Rio Grande. United States foreign policy and the ravages of civil war in the region during the 1980s have contributed to the socio-economic conditions underlying this crisis. Extreme poverty, malnutrition, sexual violence, gang violence, and family reunification are the primary reasons these children are fleeing their homes. Many of these kids are revictimized or trafficked on their journey from Central America to the United States. Female migrants make the journey knowing they will likely be raped. Unaccompanied migrant children are in desperate need of medical and mental health services when they arrive in the United States. When migrant kids are apprehended at the border, they are placed in shelters for approximately three months before being reunited with family or placed in foster care. Once they are released to family members unaccompanied minors have limited access to physical and mental health care. Navigating the morass of social services is exacerbated by language barriers, lack of transportation, and undocumented immigration status. Given the enormous trauma suffered by these kids, the lack of services is devastating. Migrant children need long-term mental health care to alleviate their trauma and medical care for malnutrition, untreated illness, and physical harm. The first step toward meaningful social policy is to provide bilingual medical and mental health care for these unaccompanied minors.

Anne Roschelle, SUNY New Paltz – The Humanitarian Crisis at the Border

Jia Wang, University of Dayton – Economic Development Incentives

On University of Dayton Week: Does incentive spending really take from the rich and give to the poor? Jia Wang, assistant professor of economics, determines if the intended benefits are real. Jia Wang is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Dayton. Her research interests are in the areas of public economics and urban/regional economics. Her projects involve empirically investigating various economic impacts of economic development incentives. Her research has been published in journals such as B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, Regional Science and Urban Economics, and Review of Regional Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Economic Development Incentives https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/04-26-19-Dayton-Economic-Development-Incentives.mp3 Economic development incentives are a mainstay of state and local strategies to attract or retain employers. Governments can offer a variety of incentives — including grants, tax credits, and money toward infrastructure — to lower a firm's cost of doing business in a particular location. In return, potential benefits include business investment, job creation, higher income, more tax revenue, and economic growth more generally. Incentive spending continues to rise despite the lack of consensus about whether such policies produce the intended result. Notably, a large number of incentive deals are awarded to billionaire-owned companies, some of which are well-known low-wage employers such as Walmart. My research with Stephen Ellis and Cynthia Rogers, both at the University of Oklahoma, examined the relationship between incentive use and income inequality. We analyzed incentive use with data collected by Good Jobs First, which includes 41 states from 2000 to 2009. Panel regression methods let us look at how incentive use and inequality vary across states. We considered three measures of income inequality — Gini coefficient, top 1 percent income share, and top 10 percent income share. We found that higher incentive spending is related to widening income inequality. Whereas the effects vary by region, our analysis indicates that using incentives redistributed income from the bottom 90 percent to the top 10 percent — creating a reverse Robin-Hood effect. This finding is also linked to my previous research which shows that higher incentive spending at the state level is associated with lower spending on productive public goods and services such as education and highways. For policymakers who contemplate using incentives to stimulate growth, our findings serve as an additional warning.

Jia Wang, University of Dayton – Economic Development Incentives

Julie Walsh-Messinger, University of Dayton – Understanding Schizophrenia Through Smell

On University of Dayton Week: The nose may help us understand more about schizophrenia. Julie Walsh-Messinger, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Dayton, tells us more. Julie Walsh-Messinger is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Dayton and a Licensed Psychologist in Ohio and New York. Her research broadly focuses on the neural processing of emotion in serious and persistent mental illness, behavioral correlates of emotion dysfunction, and relations between olfactory dysfunction, psychopathology, and personality. Dr. Walsh-Messinger received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Long Island University. She completed her predoctoral internship in adult clinical psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in mental illness research and treatment at James Peters VA Medical Center and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Understanding Schizophrenia Through Smell https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/04-25-19-Dayton-Understanding-Schizophrenia-Through-Smell.mp3 What do you smell? Do you like it? These questions can help us understand how the brains of males and females with schizophrenia differ from males and females without the disorder. Schizophrenia is a serious and persistent mental illness marked by hallucinations, delusions, and disorganization, along with deficits in emotion, motivation, and social function. Scents are important to schizophrenia research because the disease is known to affect the ability to name odors. The neural structures that process odor are directly linked to our "emotion brain." This is why smelling an apple pie evokes a much stronger visceral reaction than just looking at the pie, and increases the chance you'll have a piece. Because of this overlap, the sense of smell provides a unique window into neural emotional processing. In one study, my collaborator, Dolores Malaspina, and I asked men and women with and without schizophrenia to rate the pleasantness and unpleasantness of odors. Surprisingly, we found that males with schizophrenia and females without the disorder judged pleasant odors as more unpleasant than males without the disorder. In another study, we asked participants to view pictures of eyes and to identify the intention or emotion portrayed in each eye pair. We then looked at how much the ability to name odors, as a proxy of emotion processing, and intelligence contributed to accurate intention or emotion identification. Again, there were reversed sex differences. In healthy women and men with schizophrenia, higher intelligence contributed the most; whereas emotional processes were most important in healthy men and women with schizophrenia. Our studies indicate that men and women are neurobiologically different, and that in schizophrenia, females look more like healthy males and males look more like healthy females.

Julie Walsh-Messinger, University of Dayton – Understanding Schizophrenia Through Smell

Martha Hurley, University of Dayton – Elderly Inmates

On University of Dayton Week: How should we care for elderly inmates? Martha Hurley, professor of criminal justice, determines not everyone agrees on how to tend to the needs of this population. Martha H. Hurley is professor and director of the criminal justice studies program at the University of Dayton. She's the author of Aging in Prison: The Integration of Research and Practice, and co-author of Trends in Corrections: Interviews with Corrections Leaders Around the World, Volume Two and Correctional Administration and Change Management, as well as numerous book chapters, scholarly publications on crime and justice, and technical reports to criminal justice and social service agencies. Her prison cell desegregation research was cited in the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. CA. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati. Elderly Inmates https://academicminute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/04-24-19-Dayton-Elderly-Inmates.mp3 The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Among the fastest growing segments of that prison population is elderly inmates. By 2030, a third of prisoners nationwide will be 55 years or older, according to the Osborne Association. Among these prisoners, hearing and vision loss, dementia, mobility impairments and other chronic, disabling and terminal conditions — which are an enormous expense — are the norm. Elderly prisoners are two to three times more expensive to incarcerate on average than their younger counterparts — costing upward of $70,000 annually, according to the ACLU. In my research, I conducted a review of how states are handling elderly prisoners. I found responses fall into three categories: do nothing and allow nature to take its course behind bars, implement early release programs, or provide alternative living arrangements. Those who favor "do nothing" argue that the high cost of incarceration is not a reason to grant early release. They also argue that early release only shifts the burden from prison budgets to taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare or welfare. Those who favor early release are backed by federal case law which holds that age can be considered as a mitigating factor in sentencing and new federal compassionate release policies. However, eligibility for release varies by state, and few applicants receive early release under these measures. Those who favor alternative living arrangements point out that elderly inmates can require handicap accessible bathrooms, wheelchair ramps and access to 24-hour nursing care. Most commonly, states modify parts of existing prisons for the elderly, with a smaller number building separate facilities or privatizing care. What is clear is that prisons are not meeting the needs of elderly prisoners and policies are not cost effective. Such issues call into question the entire purpose of prison for the elderly.

Martha Hurley, University of Dayton – Elderly Inmates

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