Elderly inmates are the fastest growing in the

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Last updated: May 18, 2019

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

The U.S. Medical Center forPrisoners, opened the first prison hospice, in Springfield, Mo, in 1987. The dedicationand interest of a master’s prepared psychotherapist, Fleet Maull, incarceratedfor drug trafficking, the hospice movement began.

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Sentenced to 25 years, duringthe 14 years served, he taught meditation to fellow inmates and developed the momentumthat lead to hospice care for prisoners. Hospice first began as a volunteervisitation program and not a program for medical care. Maull believed “hospicerestores humanity by giving both guards and prisoners permission to care,”(Head, 2005). The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics foundthat the incidence and prevalence of chronic illness in the prison populationis quickly rising. Nationwide there are 42.8% of prisoners with serious chronicmedical conditions, 3% are more likely to have asthma, 55% diabetes, and 90% suffera heart attack, compared to other Americans of the same age.

Those who had beenin prison over 72 months reporting medical problems are the greatest, 30.4%. Withthe increase of elderly prisoners that have complex medical and mental healthissues, 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. stateprisons that now have hospice and palliative care programs to care forprisoners at the EOL (Supiano, Cloves, Berry, 2014)

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