The number of over-60s behind bars has jumped 20 per cent in four years. The oldest man in prison in England and Wales was 92 as of last year and the oldest woman, 78. No one is really clear why this is happening but tougher sentencing is one factor and there is also what might be termed the Saville factor , where people now have the courage to reveal crimes that happened years ago when the perpetrators were young and the victims younger.
Some might say, “Stuart Hall is in his 80’s so what’s the point of sending him to prison; couldn’t he just do community service?” I think the answer to that is, “NO”. We frequently and rightly complain that older people suffer age discrimination and that we should be treated no better and no worse than younger people so in fact arguing that older people should get special treatment when it comes to sentencing is discriminatory.
However just as young offenders need special provision within the penal system, so too do the over-60s. A recent survey by the Prison Governors Association found that most prisons lacked the facilities to cope with growing numbers of elderly inmates and the issues which arose from mixing frail and elderly people with the general prison population.
Kingston Prison in Portsmouth was the first prison in the country to provide a specialist elderly wing, equipped with stairlifts and other adaptations. Others are likely to follow, as the elderly prison population grows.