The experience of ageing sex offenders’ transition from prison to community in Victoria, Australia

2017-05-18T04:32:05Z (GMT) by Che Mohd Nasir, Norruzeyati
As in many other countries, the profile of the Australian ageing population is changing. The experience of this ‘greying’ Australian population is a result of falling fertility, increasing life expectancy, the effect of the ‘baby boomer’ cohort moving through older age groups and the immigration of working age people. As the demographic of the general population changes, it is also reflected in the correctional population especially in developed countries where general life expectancy is increasing. Certain policies such as a hardening of sentencing practices, the increased use of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and more prisoners being convicted of offences that attract long sentence periods such as sexual offences have led to the expectation of a continued growth in the cohort of ageing offenders in many countries. Almost all prisoners as well as ageing sex offenders will eventually be released into the community. Previous studies showed that prisoners experienced numerous problems once allowed to return into a community. However, little is known about the problems and needs that older people convicted of a sexual offence will face as they are released from prison. Consequently, this study aimed to explore the experience of ageing sex offenders’ transition from prison to community in Victoria, Australia. This study adopted a qualitative approach in exploring the problems and needs of ageing sex offenders as they re-enter the community. Data have been collected using semi-structured interviews with nine older sex offenders and seven correctional officers and professionals. Transcripts of the interviews have been analysed by using some principles of the grounded theory method. This study noticed several reintegration barriers experienced by offender participants: accommodation, physical health, emotional and psychological difficulties, financial problems, unemployment, and relationship issues. In addition, support services for ageing sex offenders are limited. Further, this group of released offenders struggled to adjust to new technology. Once released from prison, this group of ageing sex offenders struggle to live in a community, and were challenged by the post-release restrictions imposed on them. These restrictions were aimed both at preventing the offender from re-offending, and at protecting the community. However, such restrictions as were imposed on these ageing sex offenders appeared based more on a need to manage risk factors associated with recidivism rather than to promote reintegration. This group of ageing offenders will continue to be neglected by policy and supports unless a less punitive and more rehabilitative approach is adopted by community and government. All these findings contribute to the knowledge about the problems and needs of ageing sex offenders and provide a base for further research. This study suggests that ageing sex offenders are facing myriad challenges upon release back into mainstream society. This study, contributes to the existing literature about sex offenders after their release to the community. When considered alongside the existing literature it can inform pre-release planning and post release support for sex offenders. It has also raised a number of issues which, in the tradition of qualitative research, might provide hypotheses for further research.