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A Call for Kindness: The Humane Approach to End-of-Life Care in Prisons

Can Incarcerated People Get Hospice? Exploring Compassionate Care Behind Bars 

What happens to terminally ill individuals in prison? This is a question that many might not consider, but it’s a crucial aspect of humane treatment within the prison system. In the latest episode of "Comforting Closure - Conversations with a Death Doula," host Traci Arieli discusses this topic with Laura Musselman and Fernando Murillo from the Humane Prison Hospice Project. Their mission is to train incarcerated people to provide palliative care to their peers, fostering a culture of empathy and support within prison walls. 

Transforming Care in Prisons 

The Humane Prison Hospice Project introduces compassion and support into an environment where they are often lacking. Laura Musselman, Outreach & Events Manager, and Fernando Murillo, Program Manager, discuss Humane’s approach. They emphasize that their mission is to train incarcerated individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to provide palliative care to their peers who are terminally ill, rather than offering direct care themselves. 

Key Highlights from the Episode 

Training for Compassion: The project focuses on training incarcerated individuals to become palliative caregivers. This training equips them with the skills necessary to offer compassionate end-of-life care, which includes emotional support, practical assistance, and advocacy for their peers. 

Meeting Individual Needs: One of the main goals is to personalize care as much as possible. While prison environments pose significant challenges, efforts are made to understand and cater to the unique needs and preferences of each patient. This can include playing their favorite music or facilitating communication with family members. 

Building Trust: Trust is a cornerstone of the program. By training peers to care for each other, the project helps build trust within the prison community. This trust is crucial, especially since many incarcerated people may have had negative experiences with institutional care in the past. 

Challenges in Compassionate Release: One significant issue discussed is compassionate release. Terminally ill individuals can be granted release to spend their final days outside prison, but this process is fraught with challenges, primarily finding suitable housing and care in the community. 

The Importance of This Work 

The Humane Prison Hospice Project not only provides much-needed care to terminally ill individuals but also offers a sense of purpose and humanity to those who become caregivers. This dual impact is transformative, fostering a more compassionate environment even within the harsh confines of prison. 

For example, Fernando shared a poignant story about how caregivers planned a memorial service for a peer. This act of compassion not only honored the deceased but also provided closure and support for their family, highlighting the profound emotional benefits of the program. 

Why It Matters 

The work of the Humane Prison Hospice Project highlights the often-overlooked question: Can incarcerated people get hospice? Yes, they can, and the impact of such care is deeply transformative. This initiative underscores the importance of humane treatment and the potential for rehabilitation and personal growth, even in the most challenging environments. 

Call to Action 

To learn more about this inspiring project and how you can support it, visit  

By addressing the care of terminally ill incarcerated people with empathy and professionalism, we can help foster a more just and compassionate society. Join us in spreading awareness and supporting initiatives that bring dignity and care to every corner of our world. 



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