The increase in ageing inmates…
The number of prisoners over the age of 50 has almost tripled from statistics of 4,824 in 2002, to reaching records of up to 13,617 in 2019.
Numbers have increased rapidly over the past fifteen years alone due to the justice system now giving out tougher and longer prison sentences. It has since then seen a rise in the ageing population in prisons. One of the causes of this is the increase of the over 50’s and over 70’s age groups now being trialled and imprisoned for past sexual offences.
As stricter sentences are on the rise, longer sentences in older age groups are now increasing. We have seen an increase in the over 50’s groups warning the number of men over 50 being held in jails rising to more than 14,000 by 2022, this rise will be the 17% of the prison population.
The overall prison population in England and Wales has risen by 16%. Statistics show that around 16% of prisoners are now over the age of 50 from statistics show as of June 2019, compared to just 7% in 2002. UK prisons are now facing an increase in elderly inmates.
In 2016, 101-year-old Ralph Clarke was jailed for 13 years for committing 30 child sex offences dating from the 1970s and 80s. He was believed to be the oldest person convicted in British legal history. Another conviction was to Rolf Harris, a well-known TV presenter who was jailed back in 2014 for child sex offences to several under-age girls throughout the 70’s and 80’s.
Increase stress in prisons from an increase in elderly inmates
Research has shown that since 2014, the standards of coping with the rising population of ageing inmates has risen drastically.
It reveals that those aged 60 and over are one the fastest growing population in English and Welsh prisons, with an increase of 146% between 2002 and 2014 showing that those aged between 50-59 are the second fastest-growing group, says the report.
Age groups of 70 and over in prisons in England and Wales have increased by 35% over the past four years, the biggest percentage increase for the over 70’s age group in these prisons are expected to grow from 1,400 to 1,900 reaching a 35% increase and is set to increase further as more convictions are released from past offences.
The unfair needs for elderly inmates
Since 2014 alone, the rapid of increase of elderly inmates has now seen the increase of basic needs for the aging prisoners drop.
A report from the Ministry of Justice on the prison population from 2019 showed the statistics had a chance of increasing the number of inmates aged over 50 from 12,700 to 13,900 by the end of June 2020.
The report in the drastic increase of older generation inmates has responded to a rapidly ageing prison population which will pose significant challenges for a prison system designed and built for young men.
It has been reported that from this rise in inmates turning frail and the needs for the elderly inmates increasing, their needs are not being met whilst in prison and has been seen as unsuited to meeting their basic needs. A spokesperson stated that caring for people with mobility problems, dementia, and chronic illness is a role for trained healthcare professionals, not prison staff.
When questioned, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that older prisoners are treated fairly. We work closely with the NHS and local government to make sure they have access to the right health and social care support. There are also a number of dedicated prison areas and units which specifically cater for the needs of older prisoners by adapting regime according to need.”
The question many are asking is if these ageing individuals need to be kept in solitary confinement or if more stricter measures were put in place within care homes if they could be moved to a sustainable environment to live out their last years. The question is, do they need to be held still in levels of security which are not needed for their physical capabilities and which inevitably are expensive as well?