In line with community trends where the aging population is increasing, the same is occurring in prisons. Known as the 'greying' of the prison population, research shows that the aging prisoner population is a global trend and one that requires attention on equally compelling issues of economic cost, institutional management, facility design and humanitarian concerns. There is growing attention to this area of penology and the increase in available literature from both gerontological and criminological research arenas is evidence of this. Dawes (2005, p.l25) explains the difference in classification of 'aged' between those in the community (60-5years) and those in prisons (50 years) where an apparent 10 year differential in overall health is attributed to former lifestyles of prisoners, including substances abuse, poor diet, stress, and economic disadvantage. To gauge the extent of what we are learning about, approximately 9% of the Australian prison population is aged 50 years and over (ABS, 2004, p. 13). Lemieux, Dyeson and Castiglione (2002) assert that the number of older prisoners in American prisons has increased by 50% since 1996. In the UK the number of elderly prisoners trebled in the ten years up to 1999 (Dawes, 2005). In Australia from 1987 to 1997 the number of prisoners over the age of 65 have tripled (Dawes, 2005).
The characteristics of the sub groups of aging prisoners may give you an idea of why there is a 'greying population'. Firstly, child sex offenders make up a considerable number of elderly prisoners. The nature of their offending and the fact that many victims may not have reported until adulthood means the remand or sentencing does not come until later in life. Next, there are the habitual criminals who have a lifelong pattern of reoffending and for whom imprisonment holds no deterrent or discomfort. Las~ly there are the 'lifers' who have either grown old in prison; or who have committed homicide later in life,...
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