Aging and Illness in Prison: Availability of End-of-Life Care in United States Prison Systems

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Nicole Taylor, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Apryl Alexander, Psy.D.

Third Committee Member

Jessica Flermoen, Psy.D.


Aging and illness in prison, Aging in prison, Illness in prison, Dying with dignity, End of life care

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


There are a rising number of incarcerated elderly adults and/or individuals with chronic or terminal medical conditions in the United States of America’s prison systems. With age and illness, it is increasingly important to highlight end-of-life (EOL) services being offered to individuals who are incarcerated to aid in dying with dignity. Incarcerated individuals are developing debilitating conditions before and while in prison, often suffering from serious illness and multimorbidity well before the final months of life (Williams et al., 2014). These growing populations come with significantly increased costs to state and federal budgets. Often times, providing humane and effective care for these individuals while in prison is far more expensive and less effective than it would be if they were not behind bars (Vesta, 2014). The purpose of this paper is to explore existing EOL services being offered to individuals incarcerated in the United States prison systems, as well as the deep psychological impact that comes with dying in prison. EOL services may be offered within prison walls or as a monitored skilled nursing home within society. Barriers in offering humane EOL services exist in training, funding, availability, staff turnover, staff willingness, and/or community support. Further resources are provided for policy makers to move toward providing individuals who are incarcerated the opportunity of humane EOL services in order to die with dignity.


50 pgs

Paper Method

Theoretical Analysis and Synthesis

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