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Rethinking the problem with elderly prisoners

Alphonzo Albright, Global Director – Government, Polycom | July 28, 2015
A greying population will require a revamp in facilities and improvements to prison cells to cater to older inmates.

Another problem facing prisons around the world including Singapore, is the cost of healthcare for elderly inmates. Japan is an ideal example, where the significant increase of elderly inmates has led the country's Justice Ministry to double its expenditure on drugs and medical equipment to almost 6 billion yen (or S$66 million), in the nine years up to March 2015. Hospital admissions reached 1,278 in 2012, almost 50 percent increase in comparison to 2003.

In comparison, Singapore is already spending S$28 million a year for general medical and health-care services at Changi Prison Complex, with another S$12 million a year as a back-up for any additional needs.

Keeping in mind that elderly inmates need additional and more frequent care, ways to cut costs are critical considerations for many prisons services around the world. Over the past few years, many local healthcare institutions have implemented technology for tele-consultations in treating inmates. This has led to increased productivity, greater access and more immediate response to consultation and care for inmates as well as overall efficiency for medical care professionals.

In addition to traditional doctor-patient consultations, video conferencing technology enables face-to-face collaboration across the whole spectrum of stakeholders — between doctors and hospitals, patients and consultants, and other supporting professionals — independent of physical barriers. According to the Prison Reform Trust report from the United Kingdom, two in five prisoners over 50 now have a disability of some kind. Video conferencing, and SPS' online sharing of patients' data, allows specialists to monitor and treat patients without needing to escort them to the hospital as and when there is a health complaint.

Singapore has demonstrated its will in embarking on its Smart Nation vision through innovations in the healthcare, prison services as well as the civil service. Increasing integration and communications between various stakeholders, powered by technology, has ensured that reintegration and medical care of elderly inmates is more compelling than anywhere else in the world.

SPS remains successful in terms of preventing re-offending and setting inmates for smooth transition into the life outside the prison. With the ongoing innovation of technology, we can do even more to provide the support and opportunities for elderly inmates who are returning to the society and are willing to rebuild their lives.


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