Success of ‘Unger’ inmates shows wisdom of not keeping seniors in prison
Jul 23, 2019 | 2:05 PM
As a member of the Unger group — 198 life-sentenced individuals released due to a court ruling after serving an average of almost 40 years in prison — I appreciate your recent editorial, “Maryland should release more elderly inmates” (July 18). I applaud the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board for moving in the right direction on geriatric release, but they can, and should, go further.
The Ungers, with about a 3% recidivism rate (a fraction of the overall Maryland recidivism rate of 40%) provide an important case study of how we can safely release elderly people from prison. Unfortunately, the current restrictive requirements for geriatric parole in Maryland do not reflect our success or the broad research showing how people rapidly age out of crime beginning in their early 40′s. This shortsighted policy comes at significant cost.
According to a recent cost-benefit analysis, continued confinement of the Ungers for an additional 18 years (their projected life expectancy) would have amounted to a nearly $1 million per Unger cost, or $53,000 a year. This compares to $6,000 a year to provide the intensive reentry support that successfully and safely reintegrated the Ungers back into the community.
Many of us who were released under the Unger decision are out and doing well. I ask the state to look at the Ungers and include life-sentenced people as it considers opportunities for those just like us who remain incarcerated.