Friday, November 29, 2013

Aging prisoners: Not just a US problem...

We've made a number of blog posts about aging prisoners in the US.  It seems that other nations are grappling with this issues, as well.  Via The Age:

In Hollywood prisons old crooks don't die, they get parole and live out their days in Mexico. In real life the world over, prisoners are growing old in prison and will in ever greater numbers die there, often after suffering from chronic physical and mental illnesses.

But the vast majority of prisons are not set up to deal with older people, and most conventional aged-care facilities are not equipped to deal with residents with a criminal history. Many inmates lose family and friendship networks when they're inside. What, then, is to be done for our older prisoners? And do we actually care?

Older prisoners are defined as those aged from 50 because they tend to have the health profile of people in the general population who are 10 years older, according to a 2011 Australian Institute of Criminology report. In the decade to 2010, the number of older inmates in Australia rose by 84 per cent, to more than 3300. The greatest rise, at 140 per cent, occurred among those aged over 65.

Susan Baidawi is a research fellow at Monash University and author of two reports on Australia's ageing prisoners: the 2011 AIC report and a yet-to-be-released Strategic Framework for the Management of Australia's Ageing Prisoners.

Baidawi says the ageing of the population generally is a minor contributor to the rise; changes in sentencing laws, including mandatory minimums, have also had an impact. But she says there is a greater number of people being convicted of historical offences, particularly sexual offences in the case of men.

"Older prisoners tend to have been convicted of crimes that are more serious in terms of sex offences, homicide and drug-related offences. Those offences attract longer sentences."

Read more in The Age (Sydney)

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