– Lenny, a Brothers Keeper, trained in end of life care by Humane Prison Hospice Project team. This excerpt is from Wendy MacNaughton’s illustrated article, Meanwhile in San Quentin featured in the California Sunday Magazine,

“Before my cellmate of five years passed, he begged me to take care of him. So I did. I fed him. I cleaned him up. When he had to go to the hospital, he fought them. He wanted to come back. Him dying made me want to change. He was my friend. The person who took care of him, that was a good part of me.”

Ira Byock wrote in Dying Well In Corrections—Why Should We Care:

“Sometimes life’s most profound lessons come from unexpected places. Prison hospice programs have something important to teach. It is worth examining why, in aggressive and predatory prison environments, prisoners are choosing to work together, without recognition or material reward, to care for one another and to build a civil community. Their compassion and hours of work are evidence of goodness within the human condition where one would least expect to find it. Their commitment to one another is a declaration of value and dignity in every human life and a vow to build a better future right where they live. We all have something to learn from that.”

A prisoner hospice volunteer at CMF said,
“…even men who were enemies get along if they’re admitted in here, death is the great equalizer.”



The hospice unit in CMF allowed some family visits. The wife of a prisoner dying of cancer was allowed to be by his side in his final hours. His wife held his hand, his eyes did not leave her face and though barely able to move he reached for her other hand when the reporter asked,

“There are critics who would say your husband and other prisoners don’t deserve such good care—how would you respond?”

She didn’t balk, she replied kindly,

“Well I would say that the care that the prisoners get reflects more on us than it reflects on them. It talks about us as a nation, as a people and how we treat those at the bottom rungs of society.”