Book Review and Launch: “Dementia in Prison: An Ethical Framework to Support Research, Practice and Prisoners”

Professor Joanne Rybacka-Brooke

Director of Centre for Social Care, Health and Related Research

Director of International Dementia and Culture Collaborative

IAH Trustee

The book Dementia in Prison has been written for healthcare professionals, prison staff and all of those who support prisoners. This book is divided into three sections, which commences with an overview of healthcare services within prison settings and the need to develop these to support an aging prison population, followed by an exploration of both the human rights of prisoners with dementia, and ethical considerations of healthcare in the prison setting, including the current support for prisoners with dementia, alongside an overview of ethical processes to enable the development of further research to support older prisoners and those with dementia.

The aim of this book is to highlight the need to understand and support older prisoners and those with dementia, this is essential as the average age of prisoners in many countries around the world has significantly increased and older prisoners are now the fastest-growing group within prison populations. The negative impact of serving a prison sentence on prisoners’ health increases their biological age by over 10 years compared to their chronological age (Grant, 1999). Due to these factors prisoners’ are classified as ‘old’ when they reach the age of 50. Therefore, prison services are required to address a number of emerging issues that previously were not prevalent in the younger prison population, such as supporting the physical and mental health of older prisoners as well as their social needs.

The principles of healthcare in prison (World Health Organisation, 2014) are introduced and the different approaches of providing healthcare in prisons, with examples from Norway, France and Australia. The development and commissioning of healthcare throughout prisons in England is discussed, with a contemporary example of healthcare provision within HMP Birmingham, and more widely the challenges of providing healthcare in prison settings. However, identifying the prevalence and incidence of dementia in prison populations remains problematic, due to the barriers and challenges of diagnosing a prisoner with dementia. One barrier is a lack of cognitive screening tools that have been adapted and validated for and within a prison setting.

Initiatives to support prisoners with dementia have begun to be implemented, such as peer support from fellow prisoners, such as the Gold Coats in California Men’s Colony (Berry et al. 2016) and the Buddy Support Worker programme in the UK (RECOOP, 2019); specific units, such as High Dependency Units (Brown, 2015) and the Special Needs Program for Inmate-Patients with Dementia (Hodel and Sanchez, 2012); and purposive initiatives, which range from range from arts and crafts, music, social activities, and light work (Brooke and Rybacka, 2020; Wilkinson and Caulfield, 2017). However, the majority of initiatives developed and implemented have not been robustly evaluated and therefore the only evidence of the impact of these initiatives is anecdotal.

Further consideration of the human rights and ethical provision of healthcare for older people and those with dementia in prison is still required. This book introduces the human rights- based approach of PANEL: participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment and legality, and explores how this approach can specifically support older prisoners and those with dementia. The last element of this book discusses the need for ethical and robust research in prison settings to support the health and social needs of older prisons and those with dementia, and the development of evidence-based gold-standard practices. A framework to support the development of ethical research within a prison setting is tentatively introduced, which also addresses some of the practicalities of implementing research in a prison setting.

Virtual book launch: Wednesday 24th March 2020, 1 pm to 2.30 pm

Free and open to all, book a place through Eventbrite:


Berry, S., David, T., Harvey, D., Hendersen, S., Hughes, B., Law, S., Hongo, A. (2016). The Gold Goats: An Exceptional Standard of Care. Washington, DC: Amazon Great Britain.

Brooke, J., Rybacka, M. (2020). Exploration of older prisoner’s social needs, who attended one of two prison initiatives for older people: an inductive phenomenological study.  International Journal of Prisoners Health, DOI: 10.1108/IJPH-03-2020-0016.

Brown, J.A. (2015). Living with Dementia in Prison. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia. Available from: [Accessed on: 10 Dec 2020].

Grant, A. (1999). Elderly Inmates: Issues for Australia. Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No. 115. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Hodel, B., Sanchez, H.G. (2012). The special needs program for inmate-patients with dementia (SNPID): a psychosocial program provided in the prison system. Dementia, 12 (5): 54–660.

Resettlement and Care of Older ex-Offenders (RECOOP) (2019). The Care Act 2014 and The Buddy Support Worker Training Programme. Available from: [Accessed on: 10 dec 2020].

Wilkinson, D.J., Caulfield, L.S. (2017). The perceived benefits of an arts project for health and wellbeing of older offenders. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 31(1): 16–27.

World Health Organizsation (2014). Prisons and Health. Available from: [Accessed on: 10 Dec 2020].

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Call for articles for our journal Ageing and Health

The main objective of our journal is to provide a platform for carers, older people, healthcare practitioners, students, academics and researchers to share their experiences and/or research in the field of working with, and for, older people. Ageing and Health aims to promote and share areas of excellent practice that promotes wellbeing for older people.

The journal is currently published in print but we intend to move to online in the future.

Ageing and Health publishes original papers, review papers, conceptual frameworks, case studies, empirical research, book reviews, discussion papers, audits/evaluations of services, poems, literature reviews, etc.

We welcome new authors as well as those with experience in publishing.

Deadline for articles: Monday 14 August 2017

Information for authors is available from the website or email Jeanette Lane at here.

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