These photographs, taken at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, make up the collection Grace Before Dying, which looks at how, through hospice, volunteer inmates assert and affirm their humanity in an environment designed to isolate and punish.
More than 85% of the 5,100 inmates imprisoned at the Penitentiary are expected to die there. Until this hospice program was created in 1998, prisoners died mostly alone in the prison hospital and were buried in the prison cemetery.
Now, inmate volunteers work closely with hospital and security staff to care for terminally-ill patients. During the last days of the patient’s life, the hospice staff begins a 24-hour vigil. The volunteers go to great lengths to ensure that their fellow inmate does not die alone.
The hospice volunteers’ efforts to create a tone of reverence for the dying and the dead have touched the entire prison population. Prison officials say that the program has helped to transform one of the most violent prisons in the South into one of the least violent maximum-security institutions in the United States.
More exhibitions can be seen here: http://gracebeforedying.org/exhibition.html