Older prisoners are being failed, warns Prison Reform Trust

Older prisoners set to fail by lack of support on release 

Older prisoners are being failed on their release, a new report finds. Image: Thomas Hawk

Older prisoners are being failed on their release, a new report finds. Image: Thomas Hawk


A new report by the Prison Reform Trust and Restore Supprt Network reveals that older prisoners are not adequately provided for on release from prison

Social care or systematic neglect? 

Older people released from prison are being failed by a lack of adequate provision to meet their health and social care needs, a report by the Prison Reform Trust and Restore Support Network has revealed.

Limited and inconsistent support to help arrange housing, employment, personal finances and debt as well as drug and alcohol dependence and the re-establishment of family relationships is undermining the resettlement of older prisoners and increases the risk of future offending.

Juliet Lyon CBE is director of the Prison Reform Trust.

Juliet Lyon CBE is director of the Prison Reform Trust.

Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report shows that for many older people in prison getting through their sentence is only the beginning. Poor health, no home or job, isolation and neglect paint a bleak picture on release.

“It’s clear that with such wide variation in standards of treatment, care and resettlement a national strategy is needed without further delay.”


The report’s key findings

  • Many older people in prison have a physical health status ten years greater than their contemporaries in the community, often the long-term effects of rough sleeping and addictions.
  • Older prisoners are likely to be institutionalised to a considerable degree and a lack of daily living skills is common.
  • Many older prisoners have lost contact with friends and family, and often do not have a home to return to one release.
  • Recent changes to probation services have created instability and led to concerns that the particular resettlement needs of older people are ignored in favour of the more general provision.
  • The report also found some good practice; including two prisons working to help maintain relationships with families whilst in custody and the identification of people who had no family contact.

According to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons’ Annual Report for 2014/15: 

“Provision for older prisoners varied between prisons and the lack of consistency over basics – such as unlocking retired prisoners during the core day or requiring retired prisoners to pay for their televisions – pointed to the need for a clear uniform strategy setting out minimum requirements for their care.”


In numbers

  • People aged 60 and over are the fastest growing age group in the prison estate.
  • There are nearly three times as many as 15 years ago.
  • People aged 50 and over currently make up 14 per cent of the prison population.
  • In 2010 59 out of 92 prisons had nothing specific in place to support the resettlement needs of older people.
  • On December 31 2015 there were 12,335 people over 50 in prison in England and Wales – most of these people will return to the community, but many will struggle to cope with life outside.
The full report is available here.

The full report “Social care or systematic neglect” is available here.


In conclusion

The report calls for the creation of a national strategy for older offenders to offset the risk of unjust disparities in the way they are managed by the National Offender Management Service.

Such a strategy should be informed by research evidence about older people’s specific needs and consultation with older offenders and relevant voluntary sector organisations.

A cross-government national strategy would meet the health, social and rehabilitative needs of older people in prison and on release in the community.

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