Background: older prisoners are a fast-growing group but there is limited evidence for how well their needs are being met.
Objectives: to quantify the social and custodial needs of older prisoners and suggest improvements for service provision.
Design: cross-sectional study.
Setting: twelve prisons holding adult males in North West England.
Subjects: two hundred and sixty-two prisoners; 97 aged between 50 and 59, 165 aged 60 and over.
Methods: interview and case-note review for issues of social and custodial need and quality of life in prison, including Forensic Camberwell Assessment of Need and Lubben Scale for social networks.
Results: many had problems mixing with younger prisoners, accommodation and activities, and limited contact with friends and family. A small group had personal care needs which were not well managed in prison.
Conclusion: older prisoners have distinct social and custodial needs which need to be addressed by a national strategy for their care and management.
Keywords: forensic; needs assessment; older people; prisoners; service provision.