Human rights and imprisonment of older adults

Authored by: Diete Humblet , Sonja Snacken

The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138931176
eBook ISBN: 9781315679891
Adobe ISBN: 9781317395553


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The greying of prison populations in western prisons is a relatively recent phenomenon. Older adults seem more adversely affected by imprisonment than their younger counterparts (Mann 2012, Crawley 2005, Crawley and Sparks 2005a, 2005b, 2006, Wahidin and Aday, 2005), indicating that the experience of imprisonment and the struggle to access basic rights and services is age-associated. There is however no agreement as to what constitutes an ‘older prisoner’: definitions range from 50 to 65 years and above (Maschi et al. 2012, p. 544). We adopt the most common definition in European studies of 65 years and above, linked to the age of retirement (Crawley and Sparks 2006), as the American and Australian definition of ‘older prisoners’ as aged 50 or over is ‘too low to address the distinctive psychological and physiological adjustments and responses to the prison environment of ageing individuals’ (Crawley 2005, p. 362). Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that the intra- and inter-individual differences among the older adult population are stronger than intergenerational differences (Westerhof 2013, Hayslip and Panek 1993).

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