Ageing prison population Contents


Background to the inquiry

1.The number of people over the age of 60 in prisons in England and Wales has increased significantly in the past two decades. The over-60 prison population rose by 243% between June 2002 (the point at which comparable records begin) and March 2020, from 1,511 to 5,176. The proportion of prisoners aged over 60 also increased during this period: from 2% to 6% of the prison population.1 A previous Justice Committee inquiry, Older Prisoners, which concluded in 2013, examined the issues raised by an ageing prison population and identified multiple challenges that older prisoners can face. These included a physical environment and prison regime that, even with reasonable adjustments, are often difficult for them to access; barriers to appropriate health care; and a lack of social care provision. Problems were also found with the resettlement of older prisoners, including difficulties finding accommodation and problems with continuity of health and social care from prison into the community. Among other recommendations, the report advised that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) produce a national strategy for older prisoners to provide for minimum standards that produce effective and equitable care.2 The Government rejected this recommendation and no national strategy for older prisoners has been produced.3

2.In the years since that inquiry, the older prisoner population has continued to increase and there appears to have been little progress towards addressing many of the issues it highlighted. A 2019 Justice Committee inquiry, Prison Population 2022, identified many of the same problems, leading to the launch of this inquiry, with the following terms of reference:

3.Nearly 40 written submissions were received before the 2019 general election, but time did not permit any oral evidence sessions. We have held two such sessions since deciding to resume the inquiry and are grateful to all those individuals and organisations who provided evidence.

1 Ministry of Justice, Offender Management Statistics Quarterly: October to December 2019, accessed 25 May 2020; Ministry of Justice, Offender Management Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2019, accessed 25 May 2020

2 Justice Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2013–14, Older Prisoners, HC 89, 12 September 2013

3 Ministry of Justice, Government response to the Justice Committee’s Fifth Report of Session 2013–14: Older Prisoners, Cm 8739, November 2013, page 16−17

Published: 27 July 2020