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J Correct Health Care. 2018 Jul;24(3):232-242. doi: 10.1177/1078345818780686. Epub 2018 Jun 20.

Preparing to Die Behind Bars: The Journey of Male Inmates With Terminal Health Conditions.

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1 School of Social Work, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA.


The prison population is graying as more individuals are receiving longer sentences without opportunities for parole or release for health-related reasons. While research has expanded on end-of-life care in and out of prison settings, to date there has been little research conducted on how inmates experience dying behind bars. Through collecting data during observation of facilitated advance care planning sessions, this qualitative study revealed four main themes: (1) losing a piece of everything, (2) not sure what to feel, (3) where will I die, and (4) finding purpose in the midst of purposelessness. These themes characterize the central issues discussed by inmates as they considered death behind bars. As we seek to improve health care in prison settings, this study provides insight into how inmates view their dying process.


end-of-life care; health care; inmates; prisons

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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