Health care program for elderly offenders

Despite being a law breaker and considered a menace to society, elderly offenders have the right to seek medical care while serving his sentence. Countries usually are allotting a portion of their national budget for health care services of prisoners. Canada, United States and UK are leading the way to delivering the needed services as required by the constitution. A professional approach to the responsibility deliverance is analysis of the problem. A research in Canada conducted by Ozoaba (1988) related to identifying the needs of both young and elderly inmates revealed that among the 12 identified needs, health care

assistance and emotional stability needs were identified by the elderly offenders as paramount. Details of the identified needs is presented in Table 25. A number of states in the U. S. spent three times more higher for the welfare of elderly offenders than the expenses for education of the youth in their schools. One such state is West Virginia (grassrootleadership. org n. d. ). The Prison Correctional Department of state jails agree that elderly offenders convicted in their older years (50 and up) and those who grew old in prison has the health condition of a

60 year old man living a civilian life outside prison (Ozoaba 1998) and Jones (2001). This is due to the fact that before incarceration, the elderly and younger offenders alike were frequently using drugs, taking in excess alcohol with poor feeding habits. According to Uzoaba, all these condition prior to conviction added to stressed condition in jail contributed to a health condition which will require medical attention. The author further reported that the elderly and geriatric convicts were diagnosed and found to have high incidences of chronic illnesses related to heart problems, hypertension, cancer, stroke, diabetes, ulcer,

emphysema, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diminished hearing, eyesight problems and insanity. Contributory to these illnesses and over-all failing health condition is the fear and anxiety of growing old and dying in prison which is unbearable for them plus the thought that their family, friends and relatives will not be able to support them haunts their everyday life inside the confines of the wall. Uzoaba (1998) further claimed that as a consequence of growing old in prison coupled with the deterioration of their health condition due to age, the elderly offenders would naturally require a complete range of medical

services, dental, nutritional and long term care. A number of them may need treatment for impaired hearing, visual problems, memory impaired condition, and may need hearing aids, eyeglasses, wheel chairs, walking canes, pace makers and prostheses. The author continued 20 by saying a number of elderly offenders may require continuous long term care and constant monitoring of their health state while in prison. Specially designed bath tubs, commodes and showers with handrails should be made accessible to frail and weak offenders. Incarceration may result to inadequacy to providing the health needs of the elderly and at the same time

raising the need to a higher level as regards its fulfillment. Daily medical needs such as delivery of medicines and routine call services to walking impaired elderly and geriatric offenders may be needed. The author continued that all these may add heavy toll to the burden of medical and CSC personnel. Some countries consider the services of professional medical practitioners who are familiar with geriatric illnesses and possess the patience and training to deal with the stressful condition The cost of all these requirements often raise questions as to economic benefits to state and society of maintaining to confinement non-

violent geriatric convicts for long period of time as their sentence require. To achieve this requirement, a number of states in the U. S. according to grassrootleadership. org (n. d. ) has overspent up to a level of 110% of their budget thereby sacrificing the budget for education. In addition to physical health considerations, a number of Correctional Institutions in the US agree with Ozoaba (1998) that mental health care of elderly offenders is also of prime importance. Mental health is also associated to emotional stability needs which is second in priority as expressed by the elderly offenders in prisons.

The less stable the mental health, the lesser the probability of success of achieving emotional stability while inside prison and in civilian life if parole will be granted to the elderly offender Psychiatrists and Clinical forensics from UK Needham-Bennet, Parrot, J. and Macdonald, A. (2002) and Rayel, M. (2000) reported similar findings that elderly offenders while still outside prison and not yet incarcerated are already suffering from various mental illness like head trauma and dementia. The authors declared that this poor mental health led the elderly offenders to crimes they

were charged of which include rape, incest, pedophilia, shoplifting and other index crimes. 21 These mental abnormalities if let to unattended will result to more problems related to prison order, prison adjustment and discipline inside the confines of the wall. Ozoaba (1998) reported contradicting findings from his fellow researchers related to psychic pain and depression among elderly offenders inside prisons. One group of behavioral scientists believe elderly offenders are sober, less deviant, less impulsive, less hostile and mild mannered compared to younger offenders.

The other camp as reported by Ozoaba (1998) claimed that elderly offenders appear calm and composed while inside prison due to the fact that they are suppressing their feelings of fear, anxiety and stress. The scientists however agree to the point that depression is a major problem among elderly offenders and this feeling may lead to suicide if unchecked and problems related to coping with the prison environment. Correction officials as reported by Uzoaba (1998) observed a number of psychiatric and psychological changes among elderly offenders serving long sentences from their constant follow up of the situation.

These changes include introversion, depression, anxiety, neuroticism and emotionality, dependency on staff, motivation to do one’s best, apathy, interest in outside world and outside contacts, concerns related to release, orientation in time and length of future time considerations. Scientists believe that alcoholism while still living outside of prison affected the mental health of these elderly offenders, as reported by Uzoaba (1998). To safeguard the mental health of elderly offenders and hasten their adjustment to prison life, professional help from psychiatrists and correction officials is

needed according to Uzoaba (1998). Statistics and demographic data from US Correctional Institutions reveal that physical and mental health conditions of elderly offenders confined within the walls of jail is heterogeneous in nature. To deliver the needed services effectively and efficiently, the inmates should be separated and grouped according to severity of illness. Segregation of elderly offenders has been done in West Virginia ( grassrootleadership. org,n. d. ) and Georgia 22 by making available separate buildings and amenities for terminally ill, movement- impared convicts and mentally derailed.