The Monterey Bay Justice Project is committed to investigating and informing the public about key issues related to mental health, medical, elder and end-of-life care for California inmates.
Most people do not imagine the stale, white walls of a prison cell when they think about where they will die. However, this is the reality for prisoners with life sentences and elderly inmates, both of which are growing populations in our U.S. prisons.
Aaron Grice lies bare-chested in his hospital bed eating popcorn. His bed table is covered with plastic utensils, creamer and sugar for coffee, fruit and hot sauce. The table next to his bed holds an assortment of DVDs; Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson are his favorite actors. The room is small, but he has it all to himself. The volume on his television is turned up to drown out the rhythmic sound of his oxygen machine.
Providing medical and end-of-life care to elderly inmates in state prisons cost California millions each year. Improvements in medical and elder care have largely been lawsuit driven, and still are not fulling meeting the needs of inmates, according to medical staff.
The aging population and increasing number of inmates with chronic health conditions in California state prisons led the state to adopt measures that can release these prisoners from custody. However, due to the slow nature of the process and high denial rate, many terminally ill patient inmates die waiting for a decision.