The Social Determinants of Health and Justice and the Aging in Prison Crisis: A Call for Human Rights Action

Tina Maschi, Ronald Ronald H. Aday


The rapid growth of the incarceration of aging people in prison across the globe is particularly problematic in the United States, which has the largest incarceration rate per capita. This papers examines the aging in prison crisis through the lens of the social determinants of health, well-being, and justice. Case studies and promising practices are reviewed to assist in a coordinated human rights based response to address the aging in prison crisis at the grassroots, national, and international levels.

Full Text:



Aday, R. H. (2003). Aging prisoners: Crisis in American corrections. Praeger, Westport, CT.

Aday, R. H. (2005). Aging prisoners' concerns toward dying in prison. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 52, 199-216.

Aday, R., & Krabill, J. (2012). Older and geriatric offenders: Critical issues for the 21st Century. In L Gideon (Ed.), Special Needs Offenders in Correctional Institutions (pp. 203-233). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Aday, R. H., & Krabill, J. (2011). Women aging in prison A neglected population in the prison system. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Alzheimer’s Australia, North South Wales [NSW]. (2014). Dementia in Prison: Discussion Paper #9. [Online] Available: (March 1, 2014)

American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU]. (2012). At America’s expense: The mass incarceration of the elderly. Washington, DC: Author.

Carstairs, B., & Keon, D. (2009). Canada’s aging population: Seizing the opportunity report. Ontario: Canada: Special Senate Committee on Aging. [Online] Available:

Chiu, T. (2010). It’s about time: Aging prisoners, increasing costs, and geriatric release. New York: Vera Institute of Justice.

Cooney, F., & Braggins, J. (2010). Doing Time: Good practice with older people in prison –the views of prison staff. London: Prison Reform Trust.

Crawley, E., & Sparks, R. (2005). Hidden injuries? Researching the experiences of older men in English prisons. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 44, 345-356.

Davies, M. (2011). The integration of elderly prisoners: An exploration of services provided in England and Wale. International Journal of Criminology (pp. 1-32). [Online] Available:

Dawes, J. (2009). Ageing prisoners: issues for social work. Australian Social Work, 62, 258-271.

Grant, A. (1999). Elderly inmates: Issues for Australia. Canberra ACT 2601, Australia. [Online] Available:

Guerino, P., Harrison, P., & Sabol, W. (2011). U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Prisoners in 2010. [Online] Available:

Hale, L., & Swiggum, C. (2011, March). Older prisoners pose new challenges for Canada’s prisons. UBC Journalism News Service. [Online] Available:

Harrison, M. (2011). A promising practice—True Grit, paper presented at the Public Forum Aging Prisoners: A Crisis in Need of Intervention, Fordham University, New York, NY, November 2011.

Higgins, D., & Severson, M. (2009). Community reentry and older adult offenders: redefining social work roles. Journal of Gerontological Social Work Roles, 52, 784-802.

Hill, M. (2007, May 29). New York prison creates dementia unit. The Washington Post. [Online] Available: (August 1, 2011)

Human Rights Watch [HRW]. (2012). Old behind bars: the aging prison population in the United States. [Online] Available: http://www.Human Rights

La Vigne, N. G., & Cowan, J. (2005). Mapping prisoner reentry: an action research Guidebook. Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center.

Loeb, S. J., Steffensmeier, D., & Lawrence, F. (2008). Comparing incarcerated and community-dwelling older men’s health. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 30, 234-249.

Maschi, T., Morgen, K., Zgoba, K., Courtney, D., & Ristow, J. (2011). Trauma, stressful life events, and post traumatic stress symptoms: Do subjective experiences matter? Gerontologist, 51(5), 675-686.

Maschi, T., Kwak, J., Ko, E. J., & Morrissey, M. (2012). Forget me not: Dementia in prisons, The Gerontologist, 52, 441-451.

Maschi, T., Suftin, S., & O’Connell, B. (2012). Aging, mental health, and the criminal justice system: a content analysis of the literature. Journal of Forensic Social Work, 2, 162-185.

Maschi, T., Viola, D., & Morgen, K. (2013). Trauma and coping among older adults in prison: Linking Empirical Evidence to Practice. Gerontologist.

Maschi, T., Viola, D., & Sun, F. (2012). The high cost of the international aging prisoner crisis: well- being as the common denominator for action. The Gerontologist, 2012 Oct 4.

Maschi, T., Viola, D., Morgen, K., & Koskinen, L. (2013). Trauma, stress, grief, loss, and separation among older adults in prison: The protective role of coping resources on physical and mental wellbeing. Journal of Crime and Justice.

Maschi, T., Viola, D., Harrison, M., & Harrison, W. (in press). Bridging community and prison for older adults and their families: Invoking Human Rights and Intergenerational Family Justice. International Journal of Prisoner Health.

Maschi, T., Marmo, C., & Han, J. (in press). Palliative care in prison: A content analysis of the literature. International Journal of Prisoner Health.

Maschi, T., Morrissey, M., & Leigey, M. (2013). The case for human agency, well-being, and community reintegration for people aging in prison: A statewide case analysis. Journal of Correctional Healthcare. Published online May 26, 2013.

Maschi, T., Gibson, S., Zgoba, K., & Morgen, K. (2011). Trauma and life event stressors among young and older adult prisoners. Journal of Correctional Health Care, 17(2), 160-172.

Mesurier, R. (2011). Supporting older people in prison: ideas for practice. [Online] Available:

Ministry of Justice. (2010). Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2009. London, England. [Online] Available:

National Institute of Corrections. (2010). Effectively managing aging and geriatric offenders. [Online] Available: (April 1, 2011)

Nunez-Neto, B. (2008). Offender reentry: correctional statistics, reintegration into the community, and recidivism. [Online] Available:

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]. (2010). Factbook. [Online] Available:

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, No. 97-634 (U.S. June 15, 1998).

Pew Charitable Trusts [PCT]. (2010). Collateral costs: incarceration’s effect on economic mobility. Washington, DC.

Sampson, R., & Laub, J. (2003). Life-course disasters? Trajectories of crime among delinquent boys followed to age 70. Criminology, 41, 555-592.

Snyder, C., van Wormer, K., Chada, J., & Jaggers, J. (2009). Older adult inmates: The challenges for social work. Social Work, 54, 117-124.

Ubelacker , S. (2011). Program trains inmate caregivers to watch over aging prisoners with dementia. [Online] Available: (August 1, 2011)

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). U.S. popclock projection. [Online] Available:

United Nations. (1948). The universal declaration of human right. [Online] Available:

United Nations. (1977). Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoner. [Online] Available:

United Nations. (2012). Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right. Substantive session, 23-27 July 2012 Geneva.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC]. (2009). Handbook for prisoners with special needs. [Online] Available:

Western, B. (2008). From prison to work: a proposal for a national prisoner reentry program. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. [Online] Available:

Williams, B., McGuire, J., Lindsay, R., Baillargeon, J., Cenzer, I., Lee, S., & Kushel, M. (2010). Coming home: health status and homelessness risk of older pre-release prisoners. Journal of Gerontological Internal Medicine, 25, 1038-1044.

World Health Organization [WHO]. (2012). Ageing and life course. [Online] Available:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

International Journal of Social Work  ISSN 2332-7278  E-mail:

Copyright © Macrothink Institute 

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domains to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', please check your 'spam' or 'junk' folder.