Problem being overlooked, says report which finds number of over-60s in jails in England and Wales has tripled in 15 years.
Prisons are now the largest providers of residential care for frail and elderly men in England and Wales and are increasingly turning into hospices, providing end-of-life care for older prisoners and even managing their deaths.
In the first report on older prisoners by the prisons and probation ombudsman, published on Tuesday, Nigel Newcomen reveals that the number of prisoners over 60 has tripled in 15 years. He also says there will be 14,000 prisoners aged over 50 by 2020, amounting to 17% of the total prison population, up from 13% in 2014.
The situation is so serious that Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales, has told the Guardian that he believes the time has come to introduce purpose-built “older prisoner” jails: essentially, residential care homes surrounded by a wall.
Older prisoners frequently have significant health needs that prisons struggle to cope with. As well as increasing numbers of prisoners requiring palliative care, there are several hundred older prisoners suffering dementia. Numbers are expected to rise sharply. While there are pockets of good practice, Newcomen criticises the prison service for widespread “inhumane” treatment of these older prisoners.