Jails struggle as number of older sex offenders soars

 

A sharp increase in numbers of men convicted for decades-old sexual offences has left jails struggling to cope with a soaring population of older prisoners, ministers are warned today.

MPs said many jails were built to house fit young offenders and are unsuitable for middle-aged and elderly inmates. The Commons Justice Select Committee pointed to the cramped conditions and poor accessibility in many of the country’s jails and condemned the lack of mental health provision and help with social care across the prison estate.

It called for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to develop a strategy to provide suitable accommodation for older inmates.

Offenders aged over 60 represent the fastest growing group behind bars, with the number jailed increasing by almost half in just four years. Older prisoners are most likely to be imprisoned for sexual offences, including those committed up to 30 years ago, which usually attract long sentences. The numbers are likely to continue as further investigations into historic sex abuse leads to convictions.

Sir Alan Beith, the committee’s chairman, said: “Older and disabled prisoners should no longer be held in institutions which cannot meet their basic needs. Nor should they be released back into the community without adequate support. In one case we heard of a prisoner who was a wheelchair user being released from prison without a wheelchair.”

He added: “The lack of provision for essential social care for older prisoners, the confusion about who should be providing it, and the failure of so many authorities to accept responsibility for it, have been disgraceful.”

Juliet Lyon, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Caring for wheelchair-bound, doubly incontinent, often demented people is beyond what we can reasonably expect of prison staff.”

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “If someone is sentenced many decades after they committed a crime and where they are so infirm as to pose no continuing danger, then the courts should explore other options than simply imprisonment.”

The Prisons Minister, Jeremy Wright, said: “We are committed to ensuring older prisoners are treated fairly and have already introduced a range of provisions across the prison estate to meet their needs.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project