The Pains of Incarceration: Aging, Rights, and Policy in Federal Penitentiaries

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Older Prisoners, Chronic Pain, Federal Correctional Policy, Prison Reform


The number of aging people in prison has been on the rise in the last few decades. Their heightened needs place burdens on correctional institutions that have not been encountered before. This article presents the results of a study conducted with 197 older prisoners. This study’s findings identify issues raised by chronic pain in older prisoners and the management of this pain in a prison setting. Correctional Service Canada (CSC) does not acknowledge older prisoners as a vulnerable prison group, and correctional policies thus tend not to include age (and its implications) as a variable worthy of consideration. Data from this study raise some under-explored issues about the matter of aging behind bars that are in need of future research. If the findings are con- firmed in the future, the CSC might find its policies challenged in court. To prevent that from happening, a systematic reform of the CSC’s policies – in particular, the medical ones – will need to be undertaken, with the goal of making them age-sensitive.