The Growing Numbers of Imprisoned Pensioners

Imprisonment isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of when you think of retirees and pensioners. Typically, retirement is marked by vacations, catching up with loved ones, relaxing, and simply enjoying the idea of never having to return to work. However, you might be surprised to hear that more and more pensioners are being sentenced to terms of imprisonment each and every year and their sentences are not particularly short in nature. In fact, the number of retirees imprisoned has tripled since 1992. Most people don’t automatically equate older age with imprisonment. In fact, they probably think the exact opposite. However, there are some relevant and appropriate reasons why more pensioners are finding themselves in prison.

To start, the Government has recently sought to take a harder stance against crime in society. In the tangible sense, this means that more judges are passing custodial sentences and are approving longer periods of time. This essentially means that more individuals are being put behind bars and for longer periods of time. This increased attention to sentencing and increased focus on hardening the stance on crime is independent of age. So, regardless of whether or not the individual is retired or of older age, they are not excluded from the increased attention on limiting crime. That means that if an elder ore retiree chooses to break the law, they are just as liable to bear the consequences as any other citizen.

Many people are in full support of this recent crackdown on crime. It does seem that regardless of your age, if you commit a crime, you should be prepared to pay whatever consequences may befall you. There are of course, opponents of this recent crackdown, especially as it relates to the treatment of the elderly and retirees. From the standpoint of the opponents, it can be argued that pensioners are only breaking the law to help make ends meet. This is of course amidst a time when pensions are not always enabling retirees to pay all of their bills and still live a normal lifestyle. Opponents of imprisoning pensioners could argue that retirees are only stealing in order to ensure that they know they will have another meal. While on the surface of this argument, one could imagine some bit of exaggeration, it is true that poverty among the elderly is an increasing problem and it is becoming more and more acute in light of the current economic crisis. Of course, this makes sense. Retirees and pensioners are forced to live on a very fixed income. There is very little potential to earn any extra money when it is needed and if there aren’t significant savings to fall back on, times can become even tougher. Even furthermore, significant savings does not always guarantee a fluid lifestyle. Even the largest of savings pots can be spent down rather easily given the price hikes in everyday necessities.

Opponents of imprisoning elders and retirees would also argue that many of them have rather severe health conditions and cannot receive the treatment they need while in prison. This is certainly true of those pensioners who are suffering from dementia. It is entirely possible that a sentence could have been passed at a time where their dementia had not been officially diagnosed and recognised. With prisoners suffering from dementia, the prison system is often unduly strained. Of course, opponents of the crackdown on crime would argue that this problem could be at least somewhat alleviated if retirees weren’t placed behind bars in the first place.

Most retirees do not enter their retirement years with the intention of breaking the law or committing crimes. However, even if they do so, many of us don’t envision prison to be a place that houses a large proportion of retirees. This seems to be changing. There is no longer a silent code that prohibits pensioners from being placed behind bars. This debate will undoubtedly continue but for those who do not believe in this recent crackdown on crime and influx of higher sentences, putting retirees behind bars doesn’t seem to make sense, especially with the added strain on healthcare that it can cause. Of course, for those who agree with these recent changes, it seems that regardless of age, you should be forced to pay the consequences for any crime that you choose to commit. There is no one size fits all answer for this dilemma but it is sure to be the focus of attention in the years to come, especially if healthcare in prisons becomes too much of a financial burden.