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Aging and palliative care

Aging and palliative care

Many challenges arise in several fronts of the correctional systems with the advent of older ages within the inmate population.

Critical factors that require urgent tackling include changes in policy making, management practices, infrastructures, quality (of care) systems, human resources and budgeting.

Currently, there are more than ten million incarcerated people worldwide and the global prison population rate is increasing. Aging, in general, is also a recent and challenging phenomenon in developed countries, and in particular it has been being incrementally mirrored inside penal institutions.  As the world’s population ages rapidly, so too the number of the elderly in jails and prisons is increasing at a breakneck gallop: at a rate three times that of the general prison population.

Although most 50-year-olds in the general population are not considered elderly, the aging process seems to be accelerated by incarceration due to contributing elements such as poor physical or mental health (often the result of factors such as substance abuse, lack of access to health care, inadequate care, poverty, and lack of education) prior to incarceration, and also because of the physical and psychological stresses associated with life in prison. Older inmates have higher rates of health conditions, such as gross functional disabilities and impaired movement, mental illness, increased risk of major diseases, and an increased need for assistance with daily living activities.

Dealing with the challenges of an increasing aging prison population is painful to prison administration whose budgets, facilities and staff are not prepared to this reality.

At IPS, we support prison systems in the definition of policies that help them:

  • divert older offenders or the ones that are chronically ill from prison;
  • rethink the length of sentences for older inmates;
  • rethink the needs for new or adapted detention facilities;
  • prepare staff on how to understand and operate with vulnerable inmates.