Since 2010, Recoop has been pioneering new and effective ways to support older prisoners (50+). We are gaining increasing national recognition for our work and have contributed to seminal policy documents, most recently the “Model for Operational Delivery: Older Prisoners.”
Older people in the Criminal Justice System are a hidden and little-recognised population, which few people would identify as the fastest growing section of the population involved in the UK’s criminal justice system.
An older offender is generally defined as someone involved in the criminal justice system who is aged 50+. Although many people aged 50 may not consider themselves “older”, it is seen as an appropriate threshold amongst this group in recognition of the practical realities they face. There is substantial evidence to suggest that prisoners suffer greater health problems than the general population, with many of them having health characteristics typical of someone aged ten years older who is not in prison.
Older prisoners may have complex needs including sensory impairments, multiple healthcare needs, disabilities and poor mobility. They are more likely to be retired and need meaningful activity and social connections. In many cases, older prisoners, who may be serving life sentences, or those who are brought to justice later in life, face the stark reality of the probability of dying in prison.
The development of our services are influenced by our service-users and key stakeholders within the prison service. The over-arching aim of Recoop is to reduce re-offending through the provision of meaningful activity, resettlement services and by addressing the health and social care inequalities faced by this hard to reach and marginalised group.
Prisons have a duty of care to provide resettlement programmes for prisoners (HMPPS 2018), but although older prisoners make up 1 in 6 of the prison population, their needs are more likely to be overlooked.
The older prisoner population continues to rise, as do their increasing needs and the latest statistics can be found here.
A prison is a particularly difficult place in which to be old. The needs of older prisoners are often overlooked, as many pose no obvious behavioural problems for the prison authorities. Their physical frailty is a disadvantage when they are incarcerated alongside younger prisoners and bullying and victimisation can be a problem.
Release can also be a time of acute difficulty because older prisoners are often institutionalised and lack the skills for independent living. Their release may be subject to conditions that prevent them contacting their families, many don’t have any family at all and some will have lost all their possessions while in custody, making the prospect of release an anxious time.
HMI Prisons and the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) have regularly reported on issues relating to older prisoners, with the PPO publishing a thematic report in June 2017. They have highlighted concerns over the challenges in managing an ageing population in environments built for younger men. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
Our Members’ section is aimed at helping professionals who work with, or are interested in working with, older offenders. You will be able to access our extensive range of specialist resources which include information, advice and guidance, training materials and session plans. To register click here.
To find out more about Recoop and how we help professionals working with older people with convictions, please contact us.