Prison administrators face challenge as number of elderly prisoners increases

As Taiwan faces the challenges of an aging population, prison administrators are also encountering the problem of an increase in the number of elderly prisoners requiring special care behind bars.

According to statistics of the Ministry of Justice, Agency of Corrections, the number of elderly prisoners first exceeded 1,000 out of the total population of 60,000 inmates in 2015, and has been increasing year by year ever since.

At the end of April, 2019, the number of prisoners over 65 years old reached 1,531, accounting for 2.7% of the total prison population.

The oldest prisoners are three 86-year-old men, of whom two are serving time for murder, and one for sexual assault. The oldest female prisoner is an 82-year-old woman serving a sentence for drug offences.

There are a total of 49 inmates over 80 years old in Taiwan’s prison system.

Managing elderly prisoners creates a special challenge for prison management because they have more special needs in terms of both physical and psychological care. The Agency of corrections said that in line with international human rights standards, elderly prisoners do light work, and are provided with accessible bathrooms, suitable beds, emergency report buttons, and special dietary provisions.

Correctional officials said that elderly prisoners often suffer from chronic diseases, loneliness, and are vulnerable to bullying.

In order to make up for the deficiency in manpower created by the increasing care demands of the aging inmate population, the Agency of Corrections has introduced a system of “prisoners caring for prisoners”.

Over 200 inmates received special training in elderly care last year, and operate as carers in return for daily provisions from prison shops.

prisoner pushes inmate in wheelchair
Prisoners receive special training in elderly care and are employed to help elderly inmates. Picture: Agency of Corrections, Ministry of Justice.

Sources: China Times, United Daily News 1, United Daily News 2.

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