Why Older Offenders?
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 or over. 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.
- With prison sentences getting longer, more people are growing old behind bars. People aged 60 and over are the fastest growing age group in the prison estate. There are now more than triple the number there were 16 years ago. (MOJ 2018)
- One in six people (16%) in prison are aged 50 or over—13,620 people. Of these, 3,311 are in their 60s and a further 1,747 people are 70 or older. (MOJ 2019)
- The number of over 50s in prison is projected to rise to 14,100 by 2022—an increase of 3%. The most significant change is anticipated in the over 70s, projected to rise by 19%. (MOJ 2018)
- Of the 54% of older prisoners estimated to have a disability, 28% were estimated to have some form of physical disability, 15% anxiety and depression and 11% both. (HMPPS April 2018)
- 189 Older prisoners died in custody in 2016, 53% of the overall number of those that died in custody. 87% of the older prisoners died of natural causes. (HMPPS April 2018)
- The very nature of the prison built environment may pose particular challenges to this cohort, as up to half of this group experience sensory impairment or reduced mobility (or both). (HMPPS April 2018)
- 234 people in prison were aged 80 or over as of 31 December 2016. 219 were in their 80s, 14 were in their 90s and one was over 100 years old. (MOJ 2017)
- Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression. (Valtorta et al, 2016) (James et al, 2011) (Cacioppo et al, 2006)
- Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)
Furthermore, 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 from this page.
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