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June 01, 2022

Persons Living with Dementia in the Criminal Legal System

Currently an estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older have dementia, and, parallel to the trend of aging Americans, the number with dementia is predicted to increase to 12.7 million by 2050. As the US population ages and rates of dementia increase, the prevalence of dementia among those involved in the criminal legal system can also be expected to increase. Indeed, these demographic trends as well as a substantial increase in average sentence length over the past 25 years have has a marked effect on the age of the prison population: the number of state prisoners age 55 and older has increased by 400% from 1993 to 2013, and it is predicted that by 2030, this age group will account for one-third of the US prison population. Unfortunately, a lack of data and information on justice-involved adults with dementia significantly impairs our ability to set a policy agenda that addresses the unique needs of this population across the justice intercept points. To help fill the gap, this mixed-method, cross-collaborative research effort collected survey data and conducted interviews with a variety of correctional health and legal field stakeholders to learn about their experiences working or interacting with people with dementia in the criminal legal system.