The prison population is aging
The number of older prisoners in Western Australia has doubled in the last ten years. And prisoners on life and indeterminate sentences are contributing to the overall aging population as they grow old in custody. But this is not unique to Western Australia. Prisoners across the country are getting older, and their proportion of their respective state daily average population is increasing.
An inadequate focus on specific need can be a double punishment for older prisoners
The aging prison population has been of limited focus for the Department of Justice until recently. There is no strategic framework or operational policy for the management and treatment of older prisoners. And without a focus on age-related needs, older prisoners can be isolated from the daily regime which intensifies the punishment of imprisonment. It also means any approach is ad hoc and left to individual prisons to manage themselves, although there are some tools which are standard across facilities such as upper bunk bed screening and assessments of fitness to work and play sport.
Departmental action and planning are focussed on the Assisted Care Unit at Casuarina Prison
The expansion of Casuarina Prison has planned for an Assisted Care Unit that will improve placement options within Western Australia. This unit is set to include community equivalent nursing home care. This is encouraging but it is not expected until mid-2023 and it is limited to male prisoners with the highest level of need. There is limited planning for those who will not require intensive support, and almost no planning has occurred for older women.