The Denver Post
CAÑON CITY — Colorado's prison population is aging quickly and more inmates than ever are sick with illnesses that will kill them long before their sentences are up.
In the first state prison hospice program in the nation, inmates of the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City are trained to care for fellow prisoners as they follow the course of diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C toward the inevitable.
Colorado's total prison population more than doubled from 1991 to 2009, but the number of inmates age 50 or older increased 720 percent, according to "Old Behind Bars," a 2012 study by Human Rights Watch. Nationwide, the number of people in prison who are 65 or older increased 67 percent in only three years to 26,200 in 2010.
"We're treating more guys," said Dave Tessier, a chiropractor who runs the Territorial infirmary and hospice program. "It's only going to get worse."
In a prison where executioners once administered a poison cocktail to condemned men, nurses now feed morphine into the arms of the dying for their comfort. Men convicted of brutal crimes minister to the physical needs of the ill and elderly, and sometimes find redemption in the role of caretaker.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Denver Post