RECOOP's resettlement project

RECOOP promotes the care, resettlement and rehabilitation of older prisoners, offenders and ex-offenders primarily focusing on those over the age of 50.   We provide Consultancy, Training & Direct Support Services for Prisons, NPS and CRC’s and offer our expertise and experience nationally to find solutions to the challenges posed by this growing group.

This is the fastest growing prisoner group and has been for the last 20 years. 13% of prisoners are over the age of 50 years 11,000 and in the community more than 10% are over 50.

There is now considerable evidence that older prisoners have significant health and social care needs. Around half will have a mental health condition and 80% some kind of chronic health problem and/or disability.  Many older prisoners have a physical health status ten years greater than their contemporaries in the community.  They are likely to be institutionalised to a considerable degree and many will have lost contact with family and friends. The incidence of other problems including poor literacy and lack of daily living skills is also high.

Many older offenders who have been in prison have lost contact with friends and family, and often do not have a home to return to on release.

Most older offenders when in prison are held more than 50 miles from home and a third are more than 100 miles away.

The likelihood of having accommodation on release from custody decreases the older a person is.  They may not understand how to manage their finances, access benefits or use technology when they are released.  Some will be released to unfamiliar areas where they have no networks to support them.

It is clear that the increases in numbers older people within the Criminal Justice System are part of a trend resulting from changes in attitudes within society coupled with an ageing population. However, to date, very few additional resources have been made available to meet the needs of this particular group of offenders, either within or outside of prisons.

There are no national policies about the care and treatment of older offenders once they are released or about the general treatment of all older offenders living in the community.

RECOOP is one of a very small number of organisations who work specifically with older offenders both in prison and in the community with many falling into a number of other protected characteristic groups as well. We offer a range of interventions and support to promote healthy lifestyles, good mental and physical health and all round well-being to reduce isolation and encourage offenders to take control of their lives and become more independent whilst in prison and as they move into the community.

RECOOP has successfully been delivering direct services in prisons since 2008. We currently have services running in eight prisons and two community settings for older offenders across the country. These include prisons from categories A–D, HMP Manchester, HMP Stafford, HMP Leyhill, HMP Eastwood Park, HMP Dartmoor, HMP Guys Marsh, HMP Erlestoke and HMP Portland.

Our South West prison services (HMP Leyhill and HMP Dartmoor) have been recognised as good practice models by both the Justice Select Committee and the Prisons Inspectorate in their 2013 Annual Report.

RECOOP was formed in September 2010, the successor organisation from Age Concern Older Offenders Project (ACOOP).  ACOOP was established in 2008 and was recognised as a model of good practice by the Department of Health’s Older Prisoner Action Group, in the Una Padel Criminal Justice Awards and in the Prison Reform Trust’s ‘Doing Time’ report (July 2010).  The charity rebranded and became part of the Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA Group).

In the last year alone RECOOP has had 14,000 older prisoner visits to our sessions. These have been made by 761 men and 89 women.

Here is what just some of them had to say about our services:

“The Rubies (Group run at HMP Eastwood Park) supplied me with friendship, strength, confirmation and the ability to share emotions. It is a promise against loneliness/the loneliness of getting older. Through this I could slowly build up a new identity.  It was my first time in prison.  I will not be back.”

“There is quite a lot of depression among prisoners. Without the Lobster Pot (Group run at HMP Leyhill) there would be more.  People would feel more isolated especially at times like Christmas.”

“There is a great sense of trust,   respect, understanding and above all caring, that we seem to pick up from RECOOP and learn to share. It is a great comfort and support and helps to beat the terrible isolation and loneliness”

“Coming to the Lobster Pot (Group run at HMP Leyhill) helps cope with the tedium of prison life.”