The Reentry Central news archives are filled with articles on the rise in number of elderly prisoners and the inherent health problems that come along with aging. The “war on drugs’ and mandatory minimum sentences are keeping people in prison for long periods of time, often when they are dying and pose no threat to society.
A Reentry Central article posted in February detailed the struggle the Connecticut Department of Corrections was having with residents of a town that adamantly opposed the state’s attempt to open an end-of-life facility for inmates in their neighborhood.
Death is inevitable, for inmates and non-inmates alike. How America treats dying inmates is hot topic that spurs passionate debates. Some believe that dying or chronically ill prisoners should be released for compassionate reasons. Others look at the costs associated with providing health care for terminally ill inmates, and think it makes great fiscal sense to allow those inmates to leave prison. Still others take a more hard-lined view and are vocal in expressing the view that criminals should not be released early under any circumstances.
As Reentry Central has reported, Angola Prison in Louisiana, one of the most notorious prisons in the country, has created an inmate hospice program that allows fellow-inmates to provide comfort and support to dying inmates. A new Release article details a similar program in Connecticut, and reveals that Connecticut was among the states asked to contribute to setting up national guidelines for prison hospice programs.
Until terminally ill prisoners are allowed to be released home, or to an end-of-life facility, it makes sense on many levels to teach inmates the skills they need to provide palliative care to the dying or chronically ill in their midst.