N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--June 1997


Raleigh - Last year, 84 inmates died while serving time in prison. Forty-seven of those were from Central Prison. Dealing with a terminal illness is emotional for the patient, his family and the staff as well.

Central Prison's Dr. Mohammad Baloch said that many have died in prison while waiting for mercy parole. That's when the idea came of asking Hospice of Wake County to help.

"Instead of cold feet, hospice jumped when asked," Baloch said at the dedication ceremonies for the Palliative Care Unit, May 8.

The newly remodeled, five-man ward provides a place for inmates to die with dignity by being in a supportive environment. A care team made up of physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers and others, provide the physical care as well as a spiritual environment to meet the concerns of the dying inmate.

In March, 1995, Nancy Bates, director of Professional Services for Wake County Hospice, created the Central Prison Hospice task force. The task force was co-chaired by Danna Metz, Central Prison HIV lead nurse, and Candy McLamb, CP Hospital nursing education coordinator. Hospital Administrator Bobby Reardon and Nancy Galyan, interim director of nursing were strong supporters.

"They say death is the ultimate, but death in prison is the ultimate," Reardon said. "All these people have mothers and fathers and family. We, in the department, have always cared for people, we were just afraid to show it."

Warden James French confessed that he at first was a little reluctant. "I thought, here's another group wanting us to throw open the doors of a maximum security prison and let them in," French said. "But I later realized it was just the right thing to do."

Prisons Director Dan Stieneke said, "This represents our highest calling. I applaud those who had the foresight to see the need for this unit and cared about getting it done."

Inmates who qualify for the Palliative Care Unit must be terminally ill, within the final 90 days of their lives, and they must sign an agreement to withhold life-sustaining measures. Patients will get counseling on what to expect in their final days, including advice about eating and medications and how they effect the body. Families will also be helped with their stages of grief as well as understanding the stages of dying for the patient.

The opening of the ward was dedicated to Sandra Hendrickson, a nurse who devoted her life to seeing that all patients were allowed a dignified death. Before her passing on Feb. 9, 1994, Hendrickson made housing arrangements for terminally ill patients at Central Prison and the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women. "She left clear foot prints for those who followed along the way to see," said Mattie Scarborough, assistant director of nursing.

Secretary Jarvis challenged employees to work with the families and continue to operate the prison with an open door policy. "Encourage people to come in because we are proud of what we do."

NC DOC Correction News- June 1997
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