chronic conditions, dying, end of life, hospice, prisoners



  1. Loeb, Susan J. PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN
  2. Penrod, Janice PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN
  3. McGhan, Gwen MN, RN
  4. Kitt-Lewis, Erin MS, RN
  5. Hollenbeak, Christopher S. PhD


The number of sentenced federal and state prisoners 65 years or older is growing rapidly. Older inmates often suffer from advanced chronic conditions. Although compassionate release is a possibility, in practice, only a small fraction of prisoners are paroled before their death. The result is that more people are spending their final days incarcerated. The purpose of this study was to examine the values, beliefs, and perceptions held by current and potential future consumers of end-of-life care in prisons to highlight the facilitators and barriers to providing compassionate care for those dying in prison. Responses from prisoners in 4 distinct state prisons led to 6 themes: seeking human interaction, accessing material resources, obtaining compassionate care, seeking equitable care, addressing physiological needs, and facing death. Hospice and palliative care nurses have a unique opportunity to share their expertise and knowledge with correctional health care professionals for continued growth and development of prison end-of-life programming. Such collaborations not only provide corrections staff with the tools needed to handle unsettling situations, enrich their work, and aid them in coping with work-related and non-work-related deaths but also will help to ensure that humanity and compassion for the dying do not end at prison gates.