From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Canada's aging prison population

First off I'd like to offer kudos to Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, a true gem within our civil service .In his latest report Sapers highlights the aging of our prison population and the special challenges faced by both the effected inmates and their jailers

The older offender is often a neglected, but significant and growing, segment of the offender population. Today, close to 20% of the federal incarcerated population is aged 50 and over, while 30% of offenders in the community are aged 50 and over. Consistent with the overall ’greying’ of the Canadian population, the number of older offenders in federal custody continues to grow annually. In the past decade, there has been more than a 50% increase in the number of older offenders under federal sentence.6 Reflecting an aging Canadian society, the proportion of older offenders under federal jurisdiction will continue to accumulate in the coming years

According to Sapers older inmates besides the expected health issues are also subjected to an increased risk of violence and "muscling" by younger more stronger inmates. Muscling for the uninitiated is the practice of using physical intimidation to convince a prisoner to surrender property and meals or to force him or her to do something against their will.

As a group, older inmates often have little social status within the prison order. Coupled with diminishing physical strength, they maybe more victimized by intimidation, muscling and bullying by younger, stronger and more aggressive inmates. Younger inmates may act on and exploit ageist attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in the form of taunts, ridicule,humiliation, manipulation, harassment or assaults that ultimately deprive elderly offenders of their safety and security. In general, prison victimization research confirms four key findings:

1. Older offenders are victimized by younger inmates.
2. They feel vulnerable to attack by younger offenders.
3. They prefer to live with inmates in their own age bracket.
4. They may live in age-segregated protective-custody units.

Medical facilities and especially palliative care within our prisons are woefully inadequate to deal with the growing health needs of this aging population. For those with decreased mobility these institutions were built with the young in mind and  thus aren't very accessible, exacerbating their issues. Simple things such as obtaining over the counter meds such as aspirins for relief from arthritis symptoms have been made more difficult by changes brought in by the Harper government.
Read his full report here

Given this reality as well as the plight of the also exploding population of  mentally ill inmates in our prison system one wonders how the fiction of our prisons being country clubs persists. Well okay I do understand why,I just wish it weren't so

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