Management of older people in the prison network

19 August 2020

The Office of the Inspectorate today released a report about the treatment and conditions of older people in the prison network.

“Older prisoners present a range of issues, mainly health-related, which require special management to ensure their imprisonment is safe and humane,” says Chief Inspector Janis Adair.

“This thematic inspection brings insight and provides the Department of Corrections with an early warning of the risks and challenges associated with managing older people in its care.”

The number of prisoners aged 65 and older has increased, largely due to longer prison sentences and more people serving sentences for historic sex offences.

The ageing prison population is not unique to New Zealand. Many jurisdictions across the world, including England, Scotland and Canada, face the same challenges.

The report found, overall, that older prisoners’ basic needs were generally being met. Corrections staff demonstrated innovation, care and respectful decision-making.

“However, there is an increasing demand for prisons to provide care home-type environments for many older prisoners and for staff to support their specific needs,” Ms Adair says.

The report recommends that Corrections develop, resource and implement a comprehensive strategy to respond to the age-related needs of older prisoners.

The areas examined in depth in the report were: environment, safe and humane treatment, health and wellbeing, purposeful activity, rehabilitation and reintegration, post-release support and staff training.

Older people who were, or recently had been, in prison were interviewed, along with staff members, and their views are reflected in the report.

“I am heartened that with the Hōkai Rangi strategy and its focus on humanising and healing, Corrections is well placed to deliver a service which meets the demands of an ageing prison population,” says Ms Adair.

This is the Inspectorate's first thematic inspection.

The Office of the Inspectorate works to ensure that all prisoners are treated in a way that is fair, safe, secure and humane. The Inspectorate is part of the Department of Corrections, but functions independently to ensure objectivity and integrity.

Note: For context and completeness, this statement should be viewed alongside Corrections' response.