What Does the Law Say?
The first and the most important factor to consider when we talk about whether senior citizens can be jailed or not is what the law says about it. This may come as a surprise to you, but the law doesn't have any specifications for elderly criminals and law offenders that have been quoted separately. The law stands equal for all, and nowhere in the law is the age of the criminal a reason to show mercy.
The age of the criminal didn’t stop them from committing the crime, did it? So, why should it tell the court to make arrangements for them?
When a criminal is presented in court, the judge must see past all the factors that may blur their outlook, including age and health. That's what the law is all about. However, mercy and compassion are something the judge can offer if they believe that’s the right thing to do.
Determining Punishment for the Elderly
Determining the punishment for the elderly can get really difficult for the court. On the one hand, they've got to consider the offense they did, and on the other, they've got to consider the health condition of the criminal. Although the law doesn't require them to, the system does feel inclined to declare the least possible punishment for seniors.
According to several studies and surveys, the rate of elderly criminals who've been set free for minor crimes based on their age getting rearrested for the same or other offenses is quite low. It shows that elderly criminals aren't really a huge threat to the safety of the state and its residents. If a senior citizen has been arrested for a not-too-serious offense like shoplifting or a minor car accident, they may be set free after being charged a penalty or fine or even a few days of jail time. Sometimes their charges may be waived off completely.
However, if the offense is serious, like murder or the sexual assault of a minor, setting the criminal free puts the safety of people at stake, which is why the court can't waive the charges. In such a case, the senior citizen will be charged for their crimes and be sent to jail.
Other situations where showing leniency to the criminals based on their age isn't a possibility, and jail is an inevitable option when the criminal has a history of serious offenses like rape, sexual assault, and child abuse. Such criminals may know no bounds, and they may do it again if they're set free.
What Factors Does Court Consider in Cases Involving Senior Citizens
Like we said before, the law is unbiased and is the same for everyone, regardless of age and sex. However, the judges often show biases towards elderly criminals. However, they only do so when they're absolutely certain that their decision won't put anyone's safety at risk.
Let’s have a look at some of the factors that the court considers when deciding on punishment for senior citizens:
The severity of the crime is the first and foremost factor. If the criminal has committed a serious crime like manslaughter or rape, no matter how aged or sick they are, they'll be sent to jail to serve a sentence just like a younger criminal. However, if the severity of the crime isn't high and the criminal doesn't look like they'll do it again, the court can consider letting them go.
The health condition of a criminal is an important factor when determining whether or not to send an elderly criminal to jail. Let’s say the criminal needs round-the-clock mobility assistance or needs to be at the hospital frequently; the court may make certain arrangements instead of sending them to jail. They may keep them on parole and under surveillance. However, if the criminal is dangerous and they may harm someone if they’re let loose, the court may make arrangements for their treatment inside the jail.
What Leniency Can the Court Show to Senior Citizens
You may want to know what leniency the court can show to elderly criminals if they aren't dangerous. Some of these relaxations include:
- Shorter jail time for an offense or crime that requires a longer sentence, or worse, a lifetime in jail.
- Immediate release of the criminal on parole so that the police can keep them under their supervision at all times.
- Fines and penalties
- Complete waiver of all charges if the offense isn't dangerous or serious, like shoplifting
All of these relaxations won’t be an option even if the committed crime is too big to be forgiven or overlooked. That’s one thing that the court has to ensure before they can start looking into their options to favor an elderly criminal.
What Does Shorter Jail Time Mean for Senior Citizens
Shorter jail time simply means reducing the number of years a person has to spend in jail for an offense or crime they committed. For example, if the crime they committed calls for a lifetime of imprisonment but the court only declares 10 years in jail, it’s a shorter jail time.
However, a shorter jail time may mean an entirely different thing for the elderly. If someone aged 30 is sentenced to a shorter jail time, let's say 10 years instead of 25, they'll still have a life after they come out of prison. However, someone who's already 65 years of age may not live through the 10 years and die while still in prison. What's a shorter jail time for younger criminals may not be so short for the elderly. And then we can’t deny the fact that jail itself is a serious punishment.
This is one of the many reasons why senior citizens are seldom sent to jail. However, we've said this multiple times before, and we'll say it again – a reduction in punishment is an option only when the crime isn't too heinous or serious and if the criminal doesn't pose harm to the people around them if they're set free. If the court isn't certain of these things, jail is inevitable, even for senior citizens.