Prisons struggling with old, sick and disabled people, says charity

Longer sentences mean people in prison are growing old and frail

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The Independent Online

Prisons are struggling to cope with the growing numbers of old, sick and disabled people behind bars, according to a prison charity.

A report from the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) comes the day before the prisons minister, Andrew Selous, 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 fastest- and second-fastest-growing age groups in the prison population, the report said. Between 2002 and 2014, there was an increase of 146 per cent and 122 per cent in the number of prisoners held in those age groups respectively.

As at 31 March, there were 102 people in prison aged 80 and over and five people in prison who were 90 or older.

Juliet Lyon, the director of the PRT, said: “Despite a Ministry of Justice commitment to transform rehabilitation, in the last few years, prison has been reduced to a punitive holding operation for people growing older and sicker behind bars. “Crisis management, drastic budget cuts, shedding and now desperately trying to recruit staff have all distracted prison managers from planning properly for a changing prison population.

“Overall, prisons are less safe and less decent than  they were even a year ago, when we published our last report. An incoming administration of government in May 2015 must not accept this deterioration in prison standards and conditions as the new normal.”

Longer sentences mean people in prison are growing old and frail with high rates of unmet social care and support needs, according to the PRT.

Two in five of those over the age of 50 in prison have a disability, the report added.

Earlier this year, one prisoner wrote to the PRT: “I am 65 years old and work full-time. Really I am one of the lucky ones. Some of the prisoners are disabled [and] 70, 80 years old, locked behind their doors, no TVs, some have no radio, banged up [at] 5.30 [in the] evening until 10, 11am next day with no hot water, not opening for hot water for a drink.”