Elderly inmates are the fastest growing in the

Elderly
inmates are the fastest growing in the United States prison populations which
poses difficult challenges for correctional and public health entities and dying
alone in prison can be merciless. Prisoners not having family, friends, or any visitors
while incarcerated usually die a lonely, painful, isolated death. Hospice
programs, in prisons, started in the late 1980s due to increased deaths of
prisoners with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to be addressed in two
prisons, one in Springfield Missouri and the other in Vacaville, California.  Because of these two prisons, others started
to adopt the hospice programs to provide dying prisoners humane treatment and
to not have to die alone. Dignity, communicating respect, and compassion among
prison staff and prisoners was brought about through hospice (Wright &
Bronstein 2007).

The U.S. Medical Center for
Prisoners, opened the first prison hospice, in Springfield, Mo, in 1987. The dedication
and interest of a master’s prepared psychotherapist, Fleet Maull, incarcerated
for drug trafficking, the hospice movement began. Sentenced to 25 years, during
the 14 years served, he taught meditation to fellow inmates and developed the momentum
that lead to hospice care for prisoners. Hospice first began as a volunteer
visitation program and not a program for medical care. Maull believed “hospice
restores humanity by giving both guards and prisoners permission to care,”
(Head, 2005).

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 The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found
that the incidence and prevalence of chronic illness in the prison population
is quickly rising. Nationwide there are 42.8% of prisoners with serious chronic
medical conditions, 3% are more likely to have asthma, 55% diabetes, and 90% suffer
a heart attack, compared to other Americans of the same age. Those who had been
in prison over 72 months reporting medical problems are the greatest, 30.4%. With
the increase of elderly prisoners that have complex medical and mental health
issues, correctional institutions are required to provide a variety of health services,
including end-of-life (EOL) care. There are more than thirty-five U.S. state
prisons that now have hospice and palliative care programs to care for
prisoners at the EOL (Supiano, Cloves, Berry, 2014)

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