The number of hospice programs for dying inmates is growing, Carol McAdoo of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, tells USA Today. More than 75 state and federal prisons in 40 states have hospice programs. Volunteer inmates shave debilitated prisoners, give them bed baths, help them to the bathroom, or clean their rooms. Many of the volunteers are lifers who hope the favor is repaid when they are unable to walk to the bathroom.
The hospice programs underscore the challenges prison officials face in taking care of a rapidly graying prison population. The number of state and federal prisoners age 50 or older has soared from 41,586 in 1992 to more than 167,000 in 2005. About 3,300 inmates die in prisons each year. No prison houses more life-term inmates than Louisiana’s Angola, where 3,712 inmates – 74 percent of the population – are serving life sentences.