Preston Prison's OAP inmates

Growing number of prisoners in city's jail aged over 60

Friday, 5th November 2021, 4:24 pm

Inmates at Preston Prison are getting older, figures reveal.

Charity Age UK said the increasing number of older prisoners across England and Wales mirrors the country’s ageing population.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 29 inmates at HMP Preston were aged 60 or over at the end of September – 4.3 per cent of the 679 total prisoners.

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Inmates at HMP Preston are getting older

This was up from 2.2 per cent a year before.

Across England and Wales, almost 5,000 prisoners were aged 60 and over in September – 6.2 per cent of the 78,500 people in custody.

This was up from 5.9 per cent a year before and the largest share on record. Six years ago – when the statistics began – that figure was 4.6 per cent.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "Our population is ageing and so inevitably this is being reflected in the numbers of older people living, and dying, in prison.

"It is important that prison staff are trained to understand the needs of older people and have access to resources and support so they can meet them."

The MoJ said the ageing prison population has been driven by recent increases in the number of prosecutions for historic sexual offences.

The Howard League for Penal Reform said older prisoners are most at risk from Covid-19, and that reversing the ageing prison population would save lives.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the charity, said: "Prisons have largely been forgotten during the pandemic, but the rising number of people who have died reveals the devastation that Covid-19 has brought to those living and working behind bars and their families.

"Tens of thousands of people have been held in overcrowded conditions or solitary confinement for months on end.

"It is almost impossible to fathom the mental distress that this will have caused.”

She called for the deaths of people in the criminal justice system to be included in the inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic.

Separate MoJ figures show 396 deaths were recorded in custody across England and Wales in the year to September – the highest figure since records began in 2000 and double the number there were in 2013.

In Preston Prison, one person died – up from none the previous year.

Since comparable records began in 2000, the prison has recorded 50 deaths.

Of the deaths in prisons nationally last year, the majority (281) were from natural causes.

The figures do not indicate which of the deaths were due to coronavirus, but the MoJ said there have been 159 Covid-related prisoner deaths nationally during the pandemic so far – and most have occurred since September 2020.

A MoJ spokesman added: “During the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, our decisive action saved thousands of lives and limited transmission in a uniquely challenging environment.”