Newswire : Cosby’s sentence highlights the nation’s aging prison population

 By Frederick H. Lowe

 Bill Cosby’s mug shot

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the ( – Bill Cosby’s sentence of 3 to 10 years after being convicted on three counts of sexual assault spotlights the growing number of elderly housed in the nation’s state and federal prisons. Cosby, who is 81 and legally blind, was escorted by police on Monday from the Norristown, Pennsylvania, courthouse to begin serving his prison sentence at SCI Phoenix, a new state prison near Philadelphia, where the staff will assess his physical and medical needs. “The day has come,” Judge Steven O’Neill told Cosby before sentencing him. “Your time has come.” Cosby was convicted of the 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball coach, Cosby’s sentence spotlights the nation’s aging prison population. In 2013, there were 131, 500 prisoners aged 55 or older. The nation’s total state-prison population is approximately 1.57 million. Over the last 25 years, state corrections’ spending grew by 674% and the costs are mainly spent on incarcerating the elderly. Those costs are much higher than for younger inmates, according to several studies. “It costs $34, 135 per year to house an average prisoner but it costs $68, 270 per year to house a prisoner 50 and older. Elderly prisoners face several challenges including hearing loss, dementia, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and mobility issues. Prisons also must be retrofit spaces to accommodate the elderly, including installing ramps, shower handles and hiring nurses to care for the elderly. “Prisons were never designed to be geriatric facilities,” reports Human Rights Watch. “Yet US corrections officials now operate old age homes behind bars.”

Ethopian Marathon Silver Medalist fears death at home as representative of Oromo people

                                                      Feyisa Lilesa

Aug. 22, 2016 (GIN) – Using every fiber of his being, track star Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia made a dash across the finish line at the just-ended Olympic Games in Rio but it wasn’t to be the end of his run.

Lilesa used his high profile silver medal victory to make a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people who are locked in a decades-long struggle with the government of Ethiopia. In a photograph seen worldwide, 26-year-old Lilesa stands with his arms crossed over his head – a gesture of defiance used by Oromos in recent months.

The gesture recalled an earlier protest by Olympic athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who gave the Black Power salute on the medal podium after winning gold and bronze in the 200 meter sprint in the 1968 games.

Political statements are banned during the games, but Lilesa showed no fear of being sanctioned. “This was my feeling,” Lilesa said simply. “I have a big problem in my country. It is very dangerous to protest. The Ethiopian government is killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting and I support the protest as I am Oromo,” he said in an interview with USA Today.

Oromos, the largest of Ethiopia’s 80 ethnic groups making up at least a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, were once a sovereign people but lost ownership of their land and become both impoverished and aliens in their own country. In 1975, all rural land was declared State-owned, leaving the Oromos in a “colonized” status.

Last November, after the confiscation of a children’s playground and the selling off of an Oromo forest, a wave of mass protests began. Other issues – the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia, land grabbing and the eviction of farmers, and the brutal repression of protestors – fed the fire, according to Human Rights Watch and other independent monitors.

“If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me or put me in prison,” Lilesa said.

A government spokesman denied any threat to Lilesa or his family. Yet state-owned TV station EBC Channel 3 blacked out the clips of Lilesa, focusing instead on the Kenyan winner Eliud Kipchoge.

Meanwhile, a crowd-funding page was set up, saying the runner had become an “international symbol” for the Oromo protests. Initial pledges of $10,000 doubled within an hour.

A legal team hired by U.S.-based Ethiopians is helping Mr Feyisa, who has a wife and two children in Ethiopia, with a request to seek asylum in the US.