A prison system built to hold young men is struggling to cope with the rapidly growing numbers of old, sick and disabled people behind bars, a new Prison Reform Trust report, supported by the Bromley Trust, reveals.
The report, launched at HMP Brixton today (Tuesday 28 October), comes the day before the Prisons Minister Andrew Selous MP is due to give evidence on older prisoners to the Justice Select Committee.
People aged 60 and over and those aged 50–59 are the first and second fastest growing age groups in the prison population. Between 2002 and 2014 there was an increase of 146% and 122% in the number of prisoners held in those age groups respectively. On 31 March 2014 there were 102 people in prison aged 80 and over. Five people in prison were 90 or older.
Ever-lengthening sentences mean people in prison are growing old and frail with high rates of unmet social care and support needs. Two in five (37%) of those over the age of 50 in prison have a disability.
Government plans to hold young children and girls with older teenage boy in a proposed new 320-place “secure college” in Leicester were rejected by Peers in a tight vote in the House of Lords during the Report Stage (Day 2) debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Peers voted by 186 to 185, majority one, to back a proposal to prevent the establishments housing girls or children under the age of 15.
Read the full debate by clicking here.
The Prison Reform Trust has prepared a briefing (pdf) to assist Peers in the Report Stage (Day 1) debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is scheduled to take place on Monday 20 October.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is the fourth Ministry of Justice-led criminal justice bill introduced by the Coalition Government. Following a series of troubling HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Board reports and the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick’s warning of a “political and policy failure” in prison policy, it is difficult to understand why the Government is introducing measures which will increase the size of the prison population, raise public costs and add significantly to the work of criminal justice agencies at a time when staff, resources and budgets are already overstretched. Many of the provisions involve significant transfers of powers to the Secretary of State, limiting the discretion of operational managers and reducing scope for effective Parliamentary scrutiny. Plans for a 300-place secure college, housing boys and girls aged 12-17, along with mandatory prison sentences for knife possession, could drive up the numbers of children in custody following a welcome period of decline both in youth imprisonment and youth crime.
The Prison Reform Trust has had letters published in two national broadsheets, the Guardian, about a recent IMB report on Wormwood Scrubs, and the Daily Telegraph about proposals to build the largest children's prison in Europe.