People in prison are among the most vulnerable groups in society. They are more likely to have been homeless and unemployed than people in the general community and often come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds (AIHW 2019).
People in contact with the criminal justice system have higher levels of mental health conditions, at-risk alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking, illicit drug use, chronic disease and communicable disease than the general population (AIHW 2019). This means that people in prison often have complex, long-term health needs. The health of people in prison is so much poorer than that of the general population, such that people in prison are often considered to be elderly at ages 45–55 (compared with at age 65 and over in the general community) (Baidawi 2011; Stojkovic 2007; Williams et al. 2014).
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2019) The health of Australia’s prisoners 2018, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 17 April 2023.
Baidawi S, Turney S, Trotter C, Browning C, Collier P, O’Connor D and Sheehan R (2011) ‘Older prisoners: a challenge for Australian corrections’, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra: 426.
Stojkovic S (2007) ‘Elderly prisoners: a growing and forgotten group within correctional systems vulnerable to elder abuse’, Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 19(3–4):97–117, doi:10.1300/J084v19n03_06.
Williams BA, Ahalt C and Greifinger RB (2014) ‘The older prisoner and complex chronic medical care’, In: Prisons and health, World Health Organization, Copenhagen,165–70.