The Parliamentary Justice Select Committee has announced that it will hold a full inquiry into the growing elderly prisoner population after submissions were made to it by Mark Leech the editor of Converse – the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales.
The Justice Select Committee, chaired by Sir Alan Beith MP, launched its call for written evidence for its new inquiry into older prisoners in January – older prisoners for the purposes of the inquiry are those prisoners aged 60 and over.
Specifically, the Committee will seek to explore:
Whether responsibilities for the mental and physical health and social care of older prisoners are clearly defined.
The effectiveness with which the particular needs of older prisoners including health and social care, are met; and examples of good practice.
What environment and prison regime is most appropriate for older prisoners and what barriers there are to achieving this.
The effectiveness of training given to prison staff to deal with the particular needs of older prisoners, including mental illness and palliative care.
The role of the voluntary and community sector and private sector in the provision of care for older people in leaving prison.
The effectiveness of arrangements for resettlement of older prisoners.
Whether the treatment of older prisoners complies with equality and human rights legislation.
Whether a national strategy for the treatment of older prisoners should be established; and if so what it should contain.
The deadline for submissions is Friday 8 March 2013 and should be sent to the Justice Select Committee, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA.
Submissions can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Leech said: ”This is a vitally important inquiry, so often this growing section of the prison population with its inherent physical and mental disabilities are completely overlooked.
“In contrast to the massive attention given to young offenders, there is not a single prison service order or instruction concerning the treatment of older prisoners which I find quite shocking.
“Despite there being over 3,000 prisoners over 60 in the prison population, and over 500 aged between 70 and 80 (like former inmate Ronnie Biggs below), no prison to my knowledge has specific OAP focus on deafness, infirmity or blindness, and despite this growing population neither dementia nor Altzheimer’s feature in the curriculum of prison officer training.”
Mr Leech also said it was ‘wholly unfair’ to rob the elderly in prison of their pensions, which in many cases is all the money they have at their disposal: “A person could work all their life and pay into the pension scheme but if they go to jail in later life they lose their access to that pension at a point in their life where they often need it most.”
The Inquiry comes at a time when the one prison in the country with any OAP focus (HMP Kingston in Portsmouth) has been told it is to close in March this year.