While Thailand has become an aging society as there are more than 20percent of total population aged 60 and over, it is found that the situation behind the prison walls also demonstrates a similar trend in the sense that the aging prison population also keeps roaring,at the greater pace than other groups of inmates. In 2007, there were only 1,785 elderly prisoners, whereas at present, there are 6,525 aging inmates: 5,134 male and 1,391 female. In fact, the actual figures should have been much higher, but because of various conditional release schemes, some inmates were released on parole or received a sentence reduction in accordance with the laws due to the fact that they are qualified elderly people and are now likely to pose zero or little safety risk.
According to the research entitled ‘OffencesCommitted by Elderly Criminals in Thailand’ conducted by Dr. NatheeChitsawang and his research team, it is argued that the majority of elderly prisoners, especially the female inmates,were involved in crimes against narcotic laws. Nearly 90 percent of them carried out crimes by reasons of economic and financial necessities. Without going outside, they tended to be persons responsible for protecting and guarding the drugs-dealing locations. Besides, some of them claimed that they had to make false confessions to save their family members who were the actual persons committing drug-related crimes. In some cases, they were afraid that nobody would take care and look after them if their family membershad been arrested and sent to prisons. As such, the elderly people might make voluntaryfalse confessions because of the belief thatat least they should be treated properly by the prison authority.
In addition, the study revealed that some elderly people intended to commit crimes as they were abandoned and left alone by theirrelatives. Because of this, they preferred serving time behind bars to receive all medical treatment, welfare, safe shelter, and food as well as to have friends at the same age to talk.
Apart from drugs offences, there are also some elderly people committing crimes against property. Normally, the elderly offenders,who worked as the temporary employees to earn money for living, tended to steal money or expensive property from their employers whenever they had a chance. Considering the offences against life and body, there is just a small group of aged offenders. In case of male prisoners, their crimes were usually caused by the fightswith their neighbors, wives, sons or daughters, and grandsons or granddaughters. As for female offenders, they tended to fight with their husbands or partners, particularly those who had been victimized by their husbands before.
It is worth noting that the increase in the number of aging prison population in Thailand partly comes from the national sentencing policy which is getting tougher on drug-related prisoners. To put it simply, the drug-related prisoners have received less benefits in terms of reduction of sentence which in turn results in the longer time to be served behind bars. Some drugs offenders have to be detained for more than 20 years, and become aged persons once they are over 60 years old in prisons.
Finally, this research suggested that the Thai prison system has to be prepared for taking care and providing proper treatment of rising number of elderly prison population, as well as planning for the effective system on successful reintegration after release.