This original and ground-breaking interdisciplinary paper explores the potential for developing dog-based projects for older prisoners, drawing on perspectives from gerontology, penology and the growing body of research which highlights the positive benefits of animal-human interactions. The ongoing research on which this paper is based is timely, as many jurisdictions are experiencing rising numbers of people growing older in prison settings, and in many countries policy-makers, including governments, are having to address the challenges of creating positive custodial environments for older people, for whom existing programmes, such as in relation to education and employability, are not relevant. In addition, many older prisoners have wellbeing needs which go beyond clinical healthcare, especially in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic where older prisoners may be bereaved or experiencing significant changes to their family, kin and support networks. In the US, and to a lesser extent in some other countries, a number of different dog-based programmes have been developed, some involving brief in-prison dog visitation sessions and others involving long-term full-time dog care in penal settings. Many of these initiatives, including in the UK, have focused on working with dogs with young offenders. However, research indicates that many older people enjoy and benefit from time with their dogs and highlights the benefits to both older people and dogs themselves. With this in mind, this paper explores the potential for developing dog projects for older prisoners, highlighting the potential benefits but also the challenges, and identifies pathways to further research, policy and practice.
Helen Codd, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom