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The Takeaway: Aging Inmates Strain Prisons; Reduce Your Retirement Tax Burden

Growing Old Behind Bars: Older men and women are the most rapidly growing prison population in the United States, according to Human Rights Watch. The dramatic increase in inmates growing old behind bars is difficult for corrections officials and facilities, which aren’t prepared to deal with the housing and medical needs of older prisoners. And the higher medical costs associated with all these aging inmates are also a strain on U.S. prison budgets.

Prisons were never designed to be geriatric facilities,” said Jamie Fellner, author of the HRW report, in a press release. “Yet US corrections officials now operate old age homes behind bars.”

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of state and federal prisoners 65 or older grew at 94 times the rate of the overall prison population. Long mandatory minimum sentences, increasing life sentences and reduced opportunities for parole are a few of the culprits. And unless these policies change, the number of aging prisoners will only continue to grow, HRW says. The group recommends changes to state and federal guidelines that could “reduce the growing population of older prisoners without risking public safety,” along with better plans for housing, medical care and programs for older prisoners.

For more on the unique challenges posed by (and to) older prisoners, check out AARP’s video report on “barbed wire nursing homes.”

Maximize Retirement Savings: There’s a “sweet spot” between the ages of 59½ and 70½ when withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s are penalty-free, but not required. Financial advisers say those years are the ideal time to move money into taxable or tax-free accounts, and avoid a huge tax tab in the future.

In a down market, those big taxable distributions can kill you,” says Eleanor Blayney, a McLean, Va., adviser.

But with a tax-diversified portfolio, you can plan cost-effective withdrawals. Here are six ways to maximize those retirement savings sweet spot years.

Friday Quick Hits: 

Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters