Sure… the person has done the wrong thing, and is paying the ultimate price, but at the end of the day they are still people. I would assume prisoners would be near the bottom of the queue for any assistance with their dementia. I try to imagine putting myself in their prison boots and wondering how they would cope in their environment with incontinence, hallucinations, wandering, confusion and decision making? Would other prisoners know about dementia, and how would they react to these behaviours? How would the prison staff react?
Australia’s prison population is ageing at a faster rate than the general population and while the number of people in prison with dementia is unknown, prisoners are at a high risk of developing dementia. The structured routines of life in prison could also mean a person with dementia could go undetected for a considerable amount of time.
Loneliness and isolation would be really amplified in prison and be very difficult to treat. I believe correctional facilities would like to transfer some prisoners with dementia to aged care facilities but are faced with the reality that the facilities are unwilling to take them. Obviously, there are safety concerns with existing residents and a whole range of other challenging factors.
I read an informative report from Alzheimer’s Australia (NSW) and men and women in prison can face other factors that hasten the development of dementia such as:
• Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
• HIV AIDS
• Lack of intellectual stimulation
• Lack of social stimulation
The report also recommended making other changes to the physical environment of prisons for people with dementia including different coloured cell doors for the person’s shower and toilet space and big print signage and pictures.
I recently listened to a podcast from some prisoners in San Quentin Prison (USA) and they have a program where selected prisoners (called ‘gold coats’) are given the opportunity to help those with dementia and other disabilities. These caring prisoners wear different gold coloured shirts whilst the other prisoners are in blue.
I can see benefit in possibly grouping prisoners with dementia together and possibly having separate wings to allow them to cope with their symptoms.
I am still learning about dementia in prisons, but thought I would share some info with you as a talking point.