The United States keeps people in prison far beyond when they pose a significant safety risk. The population of aging and elderly prisoners in U.S. prisons exploded over the past three decades, with nearly 125,000 inmates aged 55 or older now behind bars. This represents an increase of over 1,300 percent since the early 1980s.

More than $16 billion is spent annually by states and the federal government to incarcerate elderly prisoners, despite ample evidence that most prisoners over age 50 pose little or no threat to public safety. Due largely to higher health care costs, prisoners aged 50 and older cost around $68,000 a year to incarcerate, compared to $34,000 per year for the average prisoner. Unless dramatic changes are made to sentencing and parole policies, the number of older prisoners could soar as high as 400,000 by 2030, posing a tremendous threat to state and federal budgets.

The Valley Justice Coalition collaborates closely with the national Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign and RIHD in Richmond to address this issue by:

  1. Advocating for reduced sentences. Current sentencing laws keep people in prisons far past when they are likely to offend.
  2. Advocating for legislation to follow up on Fishback.
  3. Identifying specific elderly individuals to promote for parole or commutation.

You can learn more about our work by viewing past news on this topic.

James Andrew White

We are currently sending letters to the governor of California on behalf of James Andrew White. You can read more about Mr. White here. Contact information for the governor of California, Governor Edmund G. Brown, can be found here.

Sample letter/script

Governor Brown,

I am affiliated with Aging People in Prison – Human Rights Campaign; we advocate for the release of women and men who have aged in prison and out of crime. These are people who are ready to be released after spending several decades in prison away from family, community, and society.

I am writing to request that Governor Brown pardon and release Mr. James Andrew White from the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. Mr. White has spent 44 years in prison for the crime that he committed. He is a decorated Vietnam Veteran and he has proven himself to be a productive citizen of society by his work in prison. By organizing an educational program in his prison, Mr. White assisted over 1500 inmates in obtaining degrees. He also raised over $350,000 for charity. Mr. White has served the time for his original crime, and now in his 70’s it is time for him to be pardoned and released to his family, friends, and community.

James White

Mr. White can also be contacted if you have any questions or want to offer him some encouragement. For the prison’s mail policy, click here.

James Andrew White, CDC#C27182
California Medical Facility
P.O. Box 2000
Vacaville, CA 95696-2000