Friday, March 21, 2014

Hospice care in prison? We're trying!

The way we saw it, if we wanted to get something changed in Michigan's prison system, we should start at the top. But that didn't work.

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS has long been troubled by the impersonal prison setting that surrounds dying inmates. If we had our druthers, we'd prefer a compassionate release by the Parole Board so that the terminally ill prisoner could spend his or her final days and hours in the presence of family and loved ones. But compassionate releases are not at the top of the PB agenda. So, we thought that providing hospice care to dying inmates might be an alternative.

We went to the top: the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, and the top officials of Hospice of Michigan.

It took almost a year to bring about a meeting, but last September it finally happened at the MDOC headquarters in Lansing. We didn't have the director of the MDOC, but we did have the administrator of MDOC Health Care, along with top officials from the MDOC's healthcare provider CORIZON. And representing our point of view were HFP and Hospice of Michigan.

Sadly, the meeting went nowhere.

So now we're taking the opposite approach, and we're excited about the progress. On Monday, March 31, in a public setting at the St. Patrick Youth Center in Grand Haven, we're pulling together a prison warden, a CORIZON regional representative who is also a doctor, two local physicians who serve as hospice medical directors, two widows of men who died behind bars last year, and a local State Representative. The meeting begins at 7:15, and the discussion will conclude at 9, just in time to view the premiere showing of the HBO documentary PRISON TERMINAL: THE LAST DAYS OF PRIVATE JACK HALL.

If you live in western Michigan, you'll want to attend this session, which is doubling as a fund-raiser for HFP. Refreshments will be served, and hopefully, by starting at the grass roots level, we'll make some progress.

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