Since 2001, Maine Hospice Council has been operating a hospice program at Maine State Prison (MSP), in partnership with the Prison and the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC). The Maine Hospice Council and our community volunteers have brought elevated awareness of end-of-life issues to the prison setting. This partnership has enhanced services for prisoners and provided staff with greater knowledge and sensitivity on issues of grief and loss, as well as broadening the horizons of countless individuals through our advocacy and annual conferences.

Photo courtesy NPR

Under the guidance of Kandyce Powell, the Executive Director of the Maine Hospice Council, this unique partnership has brought a number of end-of-life program components to the prison that include staff training on issues of dying and death, pain management education for medical staff, a biennial memorial service for prisoners and an expansion of the Healing After Loss Group, developed and facilitated in 1998 by Dr. Diane Schetky, who was then the part-time facility psychiatrist.

Over the years, there have been some challenges to work through in order to progress with the end-of-life care program. These have ranged from resolving security issues and concerns, adjusting to having occasional female patients from the Maine Correctional Center, medical personnel changes, negotiating the presence of prisoners’ families at end of life, and more.

Photo courtesy NPR

In 2008, the prison program expanded to include education for prisoners on hospice and end-of-life care and, at present, our trained volunteers are allowed to provide a measure of patient care to prisoners at end of life in the MSP infirmary. Ours is one out of only a handful of such programs throughout the nation. Maine Hospice Council, as of 2015, is training our third class of inmates to be hospice volunteers, and is developing a methodology to measure participants’ changes in empathy and self-awareness. Long-term, we would like to study the recidivism rate of hospice volunteers against the recidivism rate of other programs and the general population, but due to the lengthy nature of prisoner/participant sentences, that is a goal that will take some years to achieve.

To learn more about our prison-hospice partnership as well as general education, please review the following resources and articles:

State of Maine Department of Corrections Policy for Maine State Prison Hospice Program [SKF NOTE: Need Current Policy]

The Challenge of Our Age: Incarcerated and Taking Care of Their Own (10/19/14)

Prison Hospice Gives Dying Inmates, Volunteers Dignity (6/27/14)

‘It Gives Them a Purpose: Inmates Tout Value of Hospice Care at Maine State Prison (6/25/14)

Maine Inmates Find Redemption Through Hospice Care (2/16/14)

Restorative Justice in Maine:

Maine Prisoner Advocacy

Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast

Restorative Justice Institute of Maine