Hastings Center Report
Forgotten and without Protections: Older Adults in Prison Settings
Abstract: The number of older adults incarcerated in prisons is growing significantly, and there is a great need for legal authority, processes, and resources to mitigate individual and social burdens of elder neglect and abuse within these settings. Older adults in prison may be particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, or exploitation. They are dependent on the carceral system for basic resources, are at risk for retaliatory actions for reporting mistreatment, and bear disproportionately high health burdens. This essay first considers standards and resources for mitigating elder mistreatment in the community and residential-care settings in contrast to the available resources in prisons. Arguing that a conceptual model of elder abuse tailored to the prison population is needed, the essay proposes a research agenda through which such a model could be developed. The model could then be used in the creation of policy for detecting and mitigating elder mistreatment of incarcerated people. The essay concludes with a call to action to address the rift in legal protections and processes that leave older adults in prison at increased risk of abuse and neglect without a clear pathway for recourse.