Palliative and end-of-life care in correctional settings

John F. Linder, Frederick J Meyers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The prison population in the United States has grown fivefold in the last 27 years. Like the general population, the inmate population is aging. With age comes infirmity, disability, and chronic conditions that may, over the course of years or decades, lead to death. Inmates enter the prison system in poorer health than their age-matched free counterparts. A growing number of inmates will die in prison. A few will receive medical or compassionate release in order to die "outside the walls". Whether inside or outside, these dying men and women are entitled to receive high quality health care, including palliative care. Dying inmates face many of the same issues as the terminally ill in free society. However, death behind bars also poses some unique challenges to the dying, their prison family, their biological family, their caregivers and health care providers, custody staff, prison administration, and society as a whole. Social workers can play an important role in the care of these individuals and the people they are connected to both in prison and beyond its confines. This article provides important background for understanding the unique and the ubiquitous aspects of dying inmates and offers direction to social work professionals in serving these inmates, their loved ones, their custodians, and the larger society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-33
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Hospice care
  • Palliative treatment
  • Prisoners' medical care
  • Social work with criminals
  • Terminally ill

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Health(social science)


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