Doing Time - older people in prison

prison cell with bed and a walking stick leaning against a bedside cabinet with a pile of books on it

The prison population is ageing. People over 60 are the fastest growing age group in custody. The last eight years have seen increasing evidence of the needs of older people in prison. This has led to a developing awareness among prison staff and prisoners of the difficulties faced by older people and a greater understanding that the current response is often inadequate, and prisons ill-equipped, to meet their needs. 

With the support of the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales, the Prison Reform Trust has audited the needs and experiences of older people in prison and published a survey of good practice work with older people in prison.

Read more about this programme of work in this section.

 

Older people in prison - news stories

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.

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A new report by the Prison Reform Trust, supported by the Bromley Trust, shows a system under significant strain with fewer staff, worsening safety, and fewer opportunities for rehabilitation.

Unprecedented cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget, due to total £2.4bn by 2015-16 , are creating a race to the bottom in prison conditions and the warehousing of people in super-sized jails, according to the Prison Reform Trust’s new report Prison: the facts.

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ed clark: austere cellBanning prisoners from receiving books in prison is just one of a number of mean and petty rules introduced by the secretary of state for justice that add to the stress and strain of imprisonment, while doing nothing to promote rehabilitation and personal responsibility.

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ed clark: walking cane and books in prison cellSome older people have committed serious crimes and it is important that justice is done, whether or not someone is aged 18 or 80.

But imprisonment for many old, disabled people can amount to a double punishment.

People aged over 60 are now the fastest growing age group in prison in England and Wales. As of last summer there were over 10,000 people aged 50 and over in prison, representing 12% of the total prison population. Many of this group have additional support needs, but caring for wheelchair-bound, doubly incontinent, often demented people is beyond what can be reasonably expected of prison staff.

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Nearly half of people in prison in England and Wales could be warehoused in 1,000-plus supersized jails under government plans to transform the prison estate, the latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile reveals.

A shorter summary version, Prison: The Facts, is available for iPad and iPhone on the App Store and for Android devices via Google Play.

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Responding to the Justice Committee report into older people in prison, the Prison Reform Trust called for a national strategy across justice and health to address the rapidly growing numbers of older people behind bars. Commenting, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"Imprisonment of old, disabled people amounts to a double punishment. Caring for wheelchair-bound, doubly incontinent, often demented people is beyond what we can reasonably expect of prison staff. Solutions lie not in adapting totally unsuitable, outdated prison accommodation but in secure homes for the elderly, family and community support and the proper engagement of social care services."

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As the Justice Secretary announces 70 resettlement prisons, briefing finds budget cuts and overcrowding are leading to less purposeful activity, reduced regimes and more time in cell.

Massive cuts in prison staff and budgets are placing overcrowded prisons in England and Wales under unprecedented strain and undermining government plans to transform rehabilitation, the Prison Reform Trust's new iPad app Prison: The Facts, Bromley Briefings Online, reveals.

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