If you are in old age, with no family and little money, your options are slim if you need living assistance.
Wasting away at home is a tragic possibility and government funded retirement homes might only be an option once your assets are depleted. Would you be better off committing a crime and going to prison where you receive food, clothing, and medical care? We decided to find out.
Regardless of your state, province, or national government, going into old age and needing care while holding little or no individual assets is a dicey situation. Would you be better off in a prison than a retirement home if you lack financial assets or family?
The Pros of Prison
Let's look at some of the positives of incarceration. Prison is cheap (if not free), provides a steady supply of food, a relatively high level of healthcare, and some social interaction. In the best situations, you could take classes for college credit, learn a new trade, or spend your days catching up on television.
While standards and settings can change from prison to prison, if you find yourself in a minimum security Federal prison, your quality of life will be pretty good. While you can't pick your roommate or the denizens of your cell block or leave, your status as an elderly individual (and hopefully your lack of violent crimes) will likely land you amongst criminals of a similar threat level (i.e., low). Depending on the facility, you might even be able to roam park-like portion of the grounds. Policies do exist to accrue inmate housing costs from personal finances, but if you lack assets, this will not be a problem for you.
Federal prisons, at least in the United States, are a much safer place than state prisons. Federal prisons are often home to white-collar, non-violent offenders, and violent attacks occur at less than half the rate of state prisons. These prisons are typically located on or near military installations (like FPC Montgomery on the grounds of Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama), where prisoners can work in clerical positions and even take in a movie at the serviceman's theater on the grounds of the base.
The Trouble with Retirement Homes
In prison, inmates are in an offensive position - their rights and standards of care are outlined extensively. Prisoners have access to personal or public defenders, and, in some cases, fully stocked law libraries. The government is required to maintain a proper level of care for inmates, with prisoners free to make due process arguments concerning quality of life in an established manner.
Retirement homes, however, can be a little different. Quality of life within retirement and assisted living homes varies dramatically from facility to facility and experience to experience. Your care givers might be great, checking on you at regular internals daily and aiming to create the best living situation possible, or you might find yourself in a facility looking to maximize profit at the expense of your lifestyle and comfort.
Negligence is sadly a way of life in some retirement homes; a way of life difficult to replicate in the prison system thanks to the stratified age of its population and nearly constant observation. Laws exist to fight retirement home negligence, but retirement home patients often fear retribution if they or their families bring up problems with care, allowing for suppression of abuse and negligence in the institution and placing the patient in a defensive position.
Retirement home stays can cost close to $6,000 a month, with the elderly often losing all of their assets in order to pay for care in the last few years of their life. When an individual's assets run out in the United States, Medicaid kicks in to pay for retirement home costs, but only at certain government approved facilities. If you do have assets that you passed on to family members or friends, Medicaid can seize those assets if they come within the "lookback" period of three years.
How to Get Behind Bars Safely
Going a route like check fraud, counterfeiting, or identify theft could place you in a Federal prison for several years - not such a bad place considering the options of wasting away alone and with no finances.
You could even go on an adventure and steal a major piece of art from a museum - everybody wants to go on a heist at some point in their lives, right? Federal prison sentences are often mandatory, removing the possibility of parole and keeping you on the inside for several years.
A retirement or assisted living home is certainly an improvement over living alone if you can't care for yourself. But when I am old, lacking family, friends, or finances, find me a seat in a Federal prison to live out the rest of my days. I'll be a good inmate, I promise. Or maybe I should become a part of the 5% of North America purchasing long term care insurance, which would help pay for a higher-end nursing home should I need one.