Prison: No Place for Old Men

This week I took part in one of the NESWA Masterclasses. Delivered by Dr Norman McClelland from Northumbria University and with input from Helen Casey at the Open University who talked about the Inside Out Programme at HMP Durham ( and Lynne Dolphin (Senior Practice Development Officer / Principal Social Worker (Adults) Durham County Council) who provided information on the Ageing Offender Initiative*.

Together with 30 practitioners from across the North East region including social workers and occupational therapists we discussed issues around mental health, learning disability and physical disability for older prisoners.

Norman provided some background information and research findings from The Prison Reform Trust (The Prison Reform Trust and the restore support Network, 2016) and academic research on the numbers of older people in prison provides the following information:

  • On 31st Dec 2015 there were 12,335 people over 50 in prison in England & Wales.
  • In 2010 the PRT report ‘Doing Time’ revealed that 59 out of 92 prisons had nothing in place to support the resettlement needs of older people.
  • However since this time government has changed probation support for people on release from prison, extended post release supervision to 45000 offenders, and passed the Care Act (2014) with wide ranging implications for the care of older people including those in prison.
  • The Care Act (2014) has wide ranging implications for the care of people and families with social care needs.
  • For the first time responsibility for social care of people in prison is clearly set out.
  • From 2015, the LA in which a prison is situated is responsible for assessing and meeting the social care needs of all people in prison, including disabled and older prisoners.

Further research (Hayes, 2012) reveals the extent of some of the mental health issues  involved.

  • 64% of older prisoners had a mental health problem.
  • 34% experience a major depressive episode.
  • 33% experience a substance misuse disorder.
  • 20% were identified as having a personality disorder.
  • 7% were identified as having a cognitive impairment.
  • 3% had a psychotic disorder.

Seven recommendations to effectively manage older offenders

  • 1. Medical teams in prisons take geriatric courses
  • 2. Medical teams obtain comprehensive physical and psychosocial case histories and provide follow-up
  • 3. Incorporate funds for rehabilitative therapy and prosthetic devices into budgets
  • 4. That panels of physicians meet regularly to review medications
  • 5. Provide therapeutic diets and exercise programs
  • 6. Consider dispensing vitamins as needed
  • 7. Increase frequency of parole reviews for older offenders


It was a useful and informative session and there has been a great deal of interest in pursuing some of the issues in the region and possibly running a further session. Please watch out for this via the NESWA website.


Hayes et al (2012) The health & social needs of older male prisoners. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27:11 (1155 – 1162)

*Bows, H. and Westmarland, N. (2015)‘Aging Sex Offenders – managing risk in the community’ Policing and Society Vol. 28, 2018, Issue 1

Please see materials from the session below:

older prisoner presentation




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