The Iowa Department of Corrections has created a program for inmates who are terminally ill. With an aging prison population, the agency has more prisoners who will die behind bars. Corrections Director Gary Maynard says they’ll try to parole some incapacitated inmates, but some will need 24-hour care in their final days. At any given time he says there are two or three inmates who are incapacitated and so feeble they’re probably going to die in prison. The prison system has a medical center in the town of Oakdale, which was the first to use its nursing staff and volunteers to offer hospice care. Now Maynard says the State Penitentiary in Anamosa is starting a similar program. He says it’s similar to hospice programs outside prison, only instead of hiring people to provide care they use volunteer inmates and existing nursing staff. Without them, he adds, it would cost too much. Maynard says volunteers are usually other prisoners, inmates serving life sentences. He says the department began devising its own hospice care system because nobody was developing programs outside the prison walls that could work with aging inmates. The bottom line, he admits, can be the cost of caring for aging and infirm prisoners. The parole board must approve, but the prison system can ask the parole board to okay a “medical parole,” and he says then the inmate’s family could give care to the ill and aging prisoner and pick up the cost of their care.
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