Aging and Dying in Prison
An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody
Presentation Deck

February 28, 2019

A Joint Investigation by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission



  • Purpose and Methodology
  • Background
  • Findings
  • Recommendations

Why We Conducted this Investigation

  • Give voice to the issues and concerns of older offenders whose needs, rights and dignity are not adequately recognized or protected.
  • The CSC has made little progress in implementing recommendations – there is still no national strategy for aging offenders.
  • Individual cases that have come to the attention of the Office.

What We Did

  • The investigation was conducted jointly with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
  • Confidential interviews and site visits:
    • 250 older individuals (men: 210 and women: 40)
    • 18 inmate caregivers
    • 12 older individuals residing in a non-CSC halfway house (men: 6, women: 6).
    • 41 CSC staff members, 14 staff working at non-CSC halfway houses
  • Literature review and statistical data analysis
  • A review and assessment of CSC research, policy, services and interventions
  • Review of international best practices

The ‘Grey’ Wave in Corrections

Population Drivers

  1. Aging Canadian population.
  2. Growing ‘lifer’ population:
    • 1 in 4 inmates are serving a life sentence.
  3. Age at admission is increasing.
    • Median age at admission to federal custody is 34 and median age of incarcerated population is 38.
  4. More individuals are being sentenced later in life often as a result of historical (sexual) offences.





8 Major Findings

  1. A significant number of older, long-serving federally sentenced offenders are being warehoused well past their parole eligibility dates.
  2. There is no legal or policy recognition that older individuals represent a vulnerable population in prison or that they have unique characteristics, needs and rights which must be respected and met.
  3. The physical infrastructure of institutions does not adequately meet the needs of older individuals in federal custody.
  4. Correctional health care costs are rising as the number of aging individuals in federal custody with chronic disease increases.
  5. Prison is no place for a person who requires end-of-life care.
  6. Federal corrections lacks adequate, compassionate and responsive release options for older individuals in federal custody who do not pose an undue risk to public safety.
  7. Community alternatives are lacking and are not well resourced.
  8. There is a clear need for an integrated, comprehensive and funded National Older Offender Strategy.

16 Recommendations

  1. Conduct an independent review of all older individuals in federal custody with the objective of determining whether a placement in the community would be more appropriate.
  2. CSC develop a separate and distinct Commissioner’s Directive specific to older individuals.
  3. CSC provide staff with training in age-related needs.
  4. CSC re-examine its use of force training and policy to incorporate best practices and lessons-learned.
  5. CSC offer appropriate work options for older individuals who want to and can continue working.
  6. CSC professional health care staff monitor vulnerable populations (older offenders and those with mental and/or physical health issues) be monitored daily during lockdowns by professional health care staff.
  7. Designate facilities for older individuals who want to live in such areas—and that such facilities are designed or retrofitted to ensure physical accessibility.
  8. Create dedicated spaces and times where older individuals can assemble and socialize during institutional working hours, and allow them access to communal prison services during working hours.
  9. We recommend that social programs staff organize age-appropriate and disability-appropriate leisure, wellness and recreational opportunities.
  10. Introduce standardized peer assistance and peer support programs across all institutions.
  11. CSC and the Parole Board be required to use proactive and coordinated case management to facilitate the offender’s safe and compassionate release to the community as early as possible.
  12. The Minister of Public Safety review and assess release options (e.g. medical and/or geriatric parole) for older posing no undue risk to public safety, and propose legislative amendments.
  13. Release planning for older offenders include retirement financial planning, and the management of personal affairs.
  14. CSC enhance partnerships with outside service providers and reallocate funds to create additional bed space in the community.
  15. CSC fund and implement an integrated and comprehensive National Older Offender Strategy immediately.  
  16. We recommend that CSC significantly reallocate existing institutional resources to community corrections.