Elderly Prisoners: Doubly Punished?

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferencePoster


Diete Humblet
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of Law and Criminology, Brussels, Belgium
The prison population as a whole is growing, and so is the number of elderly prisoners. Whilst they still remain a small group in Belgian prisons, the societal and penal mechanisms behind this evolution allow us to assume that this is an important trend which will continue, in Belgium and in other Western countries. Until now, the group of elderly prisoners has received little attention in Belgian research.
However, this new trend raises specific challenges for the prison life of elderly prisoners. Specific pains and suffering may result from prison architecture, which seems primarily designed for offenders who are young, energetic and fit (e.g. cells and stairways are unfit for wheelchair patients or otherwise disabled prisoners). Moreover, the services and programmes provided by the prison are poorly adapted to the needs of elderly prisoners (e.g. sports and fitness infrastructure, outdoor exercise, prison labour, education, reintegration programmes, etc.). In addition, whilst prisoners are already a marginalised group whose health problems and care needs exceed those of the general population, recent international research highlights that elderly prisoners face specific physical and mental health needs. Nevertheless, empirical studies focusing on elderly prisoners in Belgian prisons are almost non-existent. Only two Belgian prisons have a specialist 'elderly' unit. We therefore wish to study the specific health needs and pains experienced by elderly prisoners in Belgium in interaction with different prison regimes. In this poster, we will be presenting an overview of our research, which aims to reveal age-specific issues that elderly prisoners face in prison and analyse the interaction of these issues with different prison regimes and categories of prison staff, in order to check the validity of the concept of 'institutional thoughtlessness' for Belgian prisons. In order to answer the research questions as well as to achieve an in-depth understanding of this topic, the study will employ a mixed-methods case study design.
Keywords: Ageing - Imprisonment - Elderly prisoners - Belgium
Corresponding author: Diete Humblet, Free University of Brussels , diete.humblet@vub.ac.be
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • ageing
  • imprisonment
  • elderly prisoners
  • Belgium

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Elderly Prisoners: Doubly Punished?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this