IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Increasing number of older prisoners raises questions over whether prisons are equipped to care for them.

9th January 2013

The New Year saw media attention turn to the issue of older and elderly inmates in Irish prisons, and the specific care issues which arise in relation to them.

Older prisoners of course experience the same difficulties related to their age as older people within the general population. Many have mobility problems and health issues which can include dementia.

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of prisoners aged 50 and older, with the number jumping from 199 in 2007 to 335 in 2012, according to Irish Prison Service figures.

Speaking to the Irish Times, IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick stated that he is not surprised at these figures, as there has been a similar trend observed in other countries. He suggested that possible reasons for the increase may be greater use of longer sentences and the prosecution of an increasing amount of historical cases where defendants may be considerably older. Further, he said that older prisoners should be recognised as a vulnerable group within the prison system in much the same way as young people, women, and those who suffer from mental illness are recognised as vulnerable, as the prison experience can have a particularly negative effect on them.

Further media coverage of this issue can be found below.

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