Prisons ‘struggling’ with increase in elderly inmates

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Prisons are struggling to cope with the increasing number of elderly, sick and disabled people behind bars, a Prison Reform Trust report says.

It reveals that those aged 60 and over are the fastest growing population in English and Welsh prisons, with an increase of 146% between 2002 and 2014.

Those aged 50-59 are the second fastest-growing group, says the report.

The government said it was “committed to providing suitable facilities”.

The report comes as Prisons Minister Andrew Selous is due to give evidence on older prisoners to the Commons justice select committee.

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‘Less safe and less decent’

Longer sentences mean more people are growing frail in prison, but high rates of social and support needs are unmet, says the trust.

Two in five prisoners over 50 now have a disability of some kind, the report added.

Trust director Juliet Lyon said: “In the last few years, prison has been reduced to a punitive holding operation for people growing older and sicker behind bars.

“Prisons are less safe and less decent than they were even a year ago when we published our last report.

“An incoming administration of government in May 2015 must not accept this deterioration in prison standards and conditions as the new normal.”

Although the prison population stands at around 84,500 in England and Wales – 20% higher than it was 12 years ago – the National Offender Management Service has had to make more than £700m in savings over the last three years and is expected to cut a further £149m in 2014-15.

The proportion of prisons whose performance is “of concern” or “of serious concern” according to the National Offender Management Service has risen from 13% in 2012-13, to 23% in 2013-14.

Prisons minister Andrew Selous, said: “We’re committed to providing suitable facilities and ensuring individual healthcare needs are met, as well as working alongside charities such as Age UK and Recoop to ensure older offenders are rehabilitated.

“From April 2015, local authorities (already hit hard by austerity budget cuts) will be responsible for care and support for prisoners meaning that, for the first time, we will have a social care service working alongside the healthcare already provided in prisons by the NHS.”

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My question to you, the electorate is, could not the reduction in the required economic surplus(from 23 billion to 7 billion in 2019-20) have been used by George Osborne to improve this state of affairs?

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Ho Ho Ho!

Christmas is almost here, but before we sail through Christmas and into the New Year here are a few facts to mull over. Suicide and murder rate in prisons in England and Wales have reached their highest levels in years according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice. In 2013, there were four alleged homicides – the highest number since 1998 – and 70 apparently self-inflicted deaths, more than at any time since 2008. There were 199 deaths in prisons in England and Wales in total. Depressing reading eh?

Hardly the reality being related by the Daily Mail, who on 17 December had this to say, ‘Prisoners in a new ‘superjail’ will have a choice of Christmas dinners costing taxpayers more than the food given to patients at nearby hospitals, it has emerged. Inmates at the £150million HMP Grampian, in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, will be tucking into chicken Balmoral and chocolate gateau on Christmas Day at a cost of £2.47 per prisoner. Patients in NHS Grampian hospitals have just 89p spent on them for a two-course meal on average – although it does rise to £2.17 on December 25.’

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Bristling with indignation yet? Well, rest assured, Christmas isn’t always fun for the imprisoned, “It’s been the first Christmas away from my family…instead of my little brother and sister running in my room waking me up, it will be the guy in my cell just as pissed off as me being stuck inside at Christmas I guess. It’s my first Christmas inside so I don’t really know how things go…”

– Kano (Write To Freedom Writer)

– Caspar Walsh’s Article from ‘The Guardian’

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Now for a little bit more truth, more than 230 prison officers are being asked to work in other prisons in the run-up to Christmas as governors across England and Wales face a major staffing crisis. Official documents, drawn up in the autumn, which outline measures to tackle staff shortages in prisons during November and December. Struggling prisons due to receive additional officers under the plans include Elmley, where nine prisoners have died so far this year; High Down, the scene of a major disturbance last year; Feltham; Wormwood Scrubs; Nottingham; and Woodhill, which holds maximum-security prisoners. The plans require 239 officers to be moved to other prisons on detached duty during November and December.

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A specific document about staffing on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day indicates that about 56 officers will be asked to work in other prisons on these bank holidays. The document suggests that some officers will be required to work in prisons more than 60 miles away. The move comes after Howard League research revealed that the number of frontline officers in public-sector prisons has been cut by 41 per cent in less than four years. Almost all the prisons asked to provide additional officers in the run-up to Christmas are themselves having to contend with severe staff cuts, coinciding with a deepening prison overcrowding crisis and an alarming rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in custody.

– Taken from ‘The Howard League For Penal Reform’ Website

Question: will Grayling be home for Christmas enjoying a hassle free roast? Or will he be chained to his desk pondering the difficulties of running the prison service on a rapidly shrinking shoe-string? Whilst we’re at it, how is the Labour party aiming to address the deterioration of conditions within the prison estate if they should gain power?