Elderly Detainees, unknown and unloved

Elderly offenders, unknown and unloved.

The increasing ageing population is usually associated with increasing problems of payment and appropriate care. The aim of this study is not to highlight those negative nor the positive aspects of ageing, but to examine whether this ageing population is also noticeable in crime and the prison population. Will the number of older captives increase as the baby-boom generation ages and with what consequences? Does this then imply new problems in terms of health, care and general well-being? What tensions can this cause between the detainees and the prison staff? How are they prepared for re-integration in society. Prisons are not designed with older people in mind. What is the situation of the offenders in their final or palliative phase of life, and is the staff prepared for all this? Detention is a deprivation of liberty imposed as a punishment; a legal measure taken to protect our society with very serious consequences for the person affected. To what extent does this “total institution” as a context influence the process of ageing?
Ultimately, however, for most detainees it is the intention that after serving their sentence, they will find a way back into society. This reintegration is not evident or easy anyway. How can reintegration take place in a society that is in constant change and of which one is temporarily not a member? Younger ex-prisoners can get new opportunities through employment, education and their family network, but what does this mean for older prisoners? Are the counselling methods adapted to the older group in a detention context? Unemployed people over the age of 50 are already finding it very difficult to find work, and the chances of older prisoners are almost non-existing. Older inmates also have a much more limited support network and sometimes there is no one left to call on. Does leaving prison mean returning to the street or going directly to residential care centres? Although the latter will be very difficult when taking into account the waiting lists and the required degree of need for help. What methods do counsellors and supervisors use when working with this group? Do they have the necessary knowledge and skills to deal with this problem? In the fragmented landscape of relief and services on release, reintegration for many older ex-prisoners, with few opportunities on the labour market will be very difficult.

Duration: 2013-2015

Researchers: Hilde Maelstaf & Dries Claessens


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Reference: Maelstaf, H. & Claessens, D. (2016). Oudere gedetineerden, onbekend en onbemind. Antwerpen: AP Hogeschool Antwerpen