Prison Hospice - IL

06/13/19 at 11:49 AM by Cordt Kassner

Cool story about expanding prison hospice in Illinois - good work folks! More to come soon regarding new legislation just passed in Louisiana...


‘We carry a light’—Inmates at Shawnee Correctional Center care for the prison’s dying
Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, IL)
June 7, 2019

Vienna, IL—”No one dies alone,” Karen Smoot said. Smoot, health care unit director at the Shawnee Correctional Center, said she and her team were on “24-hour vigil” for an inmate in the infirmary. He would be dying soon. … Smoot has been a nurse for about 20 years. She has worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections since 2016, and said hospice or end-of-life care is different for prisoners. They are not in their homes, in their own beds, and oftentimes are not surrounded by loved ones. But still, Smoot sees it as her job to comfort them. “We’re tasked with taking care of him and providing for him the appropriate and humane end-of-life care,” she said. Another thing that separates hospice care at Shawnee is the team of caretakers Smoot has assembled. The seven men that stood next to [inmate and patient Ernest] Cornes and have cared for his most intimate needs in the weeks he’s been in the infirmary were not nurses. They are inmates. Smoot said a 2017 directive came from the state that prisons in the Illinois Department of Corrections needed to implement some form of end-of-life care, and she decided to go a bit further. She created the Shawnee Hospice/Adult Comfort Care Program, which trains select inmates in the type of therapeutic, nonmedical care given to people who are nearing death. This means regular visits, playing cards, writing letters and even helping with bathing. … While the impact on the inmates needing care is important, the changes in perspective the caregivers experience can be world-changing. … All seven of Smoot’s workers volunteer without incentive. They do not receive pay like other prison jobs and there is no early-out, good time accrued. They all say they are there to help someone, and to help themselves. This help could come while they are on the inside, but when they are released all expect to take with them the insights and perspective they gained from participating in the hospice program.

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