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photo Gray Days
By Katherine Leggett

Seniors are the fastest growing segment of our society. But few of us realize this demographic is also true in our nation's prison systems. Over the past ten years, the United States has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of elderly men and women in our state and federal prisons — from about 30,000 to 140,000. At an average cost of $65,000 per inmate, their custody is costing us more than nine billion dollars a year.

This troubling documentary introduces us to two elderly North Carolina inmates. Lonnie, now 82, has been in and out of prison since a murder conviction when he was 18. He confesses to having had "a terrible temper" when he was younger. Now he works in the greenhouse and hopes to be paroled to a nearby old folks home. Shirley, 67, was working in a rest home when she was attacked by the husband of a patient; in a panic, she shot him, and was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison. She had been looking forward to retiring; now, with a number of serious health problems, she just hopes to get out while her older husband is still alive.

The film doesn't take positions, but invites discussion of the universal issues raised by this situation. As one warden comments, "Just because you age doesn't change the fact that you did commit that crime," but another notes, "I think there probably was a consideration of age in days gone by. Now paroles are virtually non-existent. Society has hardened."

14 minutes
© 2005
Purchase $199 DVD
Order No. QA-444
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-833-2

"Timely and sensitive. Gives special attention to the growing number of elderly inmates and the needs of older offenders." Ron Aday, Middle Tennessee State University

Awards & Conference Screenings
SXSW Film Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Mature Media Awards, Gold Award
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Anchorage International Film Festival
American Society on Aging, Media Festival
Council on Social Work Education Conference

Related Films
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When Gambling is No Longer Fun: Gambling can seem like an innocent way for retirees and other older adults to spend free time, have a little fun, meet new people. But what happens when the urge to gamble goes past entertainment to addiction?

Are the Kids Alright?: Filmed in courtrooms, correctional institutions, treatment centers, and family homes, this searing documentary examines the results of the tragic decline in mental health services for children and adolescents at risk.

Worth Saving: This short video follows two drug users through a groundbreaking program that teaches the signs of drug overdose and the basic CPR needed to save lives. In an unusual and controversial approach, the DOPE program also prescribes the antidote Narcan directly to drug users.

The Checker King: Fighting poor health and depression, 81-year-old Harold O'Brien journeys to the National Checker Championship after losing his wife, Norma. This warm and inspiring story is honest about the darker realities of aging and depression.

Introducing TJ: Therapeutic Jurisprudence offers a new approach to meeting the needs of mentally ill people in the judicial system, by focusing on therapy and rehabilitation rather than jail.


Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website