Background: Relatively little is known about the current health care situation and the legal rights of ageing prisoners worldwide. To date, only a few studies have investigated their rights to health care. However, elderly prisoners need special attention. Objective: The aim of this article is to critically review the health care situation of older prisoners by analysing the relevant national and international legal frameworks with a particular focus on Switzerland, England and Wales, and the United States (US). Methods: Publications on legal frameworks were searched using Web of Science, PubMed, MEDLINE, HeinOnline, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Searches utilizing combinations of keywords relating to ageing prisoners were performed. Relevant reports and policy documents were obtained in order to understand the legal settings in Switzerland, England and Wales, and the US. All articles, reports, and policy documents published in English and German between 1774 to June 2012 were included for analysis. Using a comparative approach, an outline was completed to distinguish positive policies in this area. Regulatory approaches were investigated through evaluations of soft laws applicable in Europe and US Supreme Court judgements. Results: Even though several documents could be interpreted as guaranteeing adequate health care for ageing prisoners, there is no specific regulation that addresses this issue completely. The Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing contributes the most by providing an in-depth analysis of the health care needs of older persons. Still, critical analysis of retrieved documents reveals the lack of specific legislation regarding the health care for ageing prisoners. Conclusion: No consistent regulation delineates the provision of health care for ageing prisoners. Neither national nor international institutions have enforceable laws that secure the precarious situation of older adults in prisons. To initiate a change, this work presents critical issues that must be addressed to protect the right to health care and well-being of ageing prisoners. Additionally, it is important to design legal structures and guidelines which acknowledge and accommodate the needs of ageing prisoners.

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