We are on a mission to implement and support end of life care in prisons. The need is growing in a crisis manner as there is a huge aging prison population and in most prisons there are no hospice programs in place, leaving at worst, the inmate to die alone in great suffering, or at best the inmates as the default untrained (as well as in their own trauma) caregivers. We have developed a program (modeled after similar programs already being used in over 35 prisons in the United States) to train and support the incarcerated to be the caregivers for their fellow dying inmates. This approach has not only proven to be incredibly comforting to the dying but profoundly transformative for the inmate caregiver, and extremely important to inmate family and friends. We are thrilled to be partnering with a program of volunteer inmates known as the Brothers Keepers, trained as certified crisis counselors. They were formed in 2005 to help prevent suicide in San Quentin. The Brothers Keepers have been asking for training in end of life care literally for years. It is often said, ‘things move in geologic time in prison’ which has felt like the case with our mission; but in the past 6 months, there is finally a groundswell of support and movement. Stay tuned for our website and logo which will be designed and guided by both ex incarcerated graduates and incarcerated in training students of the highly acclaimed The Last Mile program. This program was recently visited and praised by Senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to determine the program’s national viability.
Aside from the many brilliant helping hands we’ve been given, we are mainly a hearty trio of Sandra Fish, Ladybird Rolling Morgan, Marvin Mutch. Brief Bios Below
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Marvin is our liaison with prison officials, spokesperson, and general hero of all trades. Marvin’s bio is an extraordinary one. He was released from prison February 17, 2016 after serving 41 years on a wrongful conviction suffered in 1975. In 2008, Marvin was injured and sent to California Medical Facility for treatment, while there he p became a fervent supporter of California’s only full-service prison hospice program. Marvin saw the program shepherd no less than ten of his dying brothers to final dignity while there. The number of programs and advocacy works Marvin created while incarcerated are too numerous to mention. But one must be mentioned. The marvelous serendipitous nature of our being introduced to Marvin, includes the fact, he was one of the main founders of the San Quentin Brothers Keepers. Marvin was released through the combined efforts of USC’s Post Conviction Justice Project and The Golden Gate University Innocence Project.
[expand title=”Co-Founder and Program Director – Ladybird Rolling Morgan, RN, MSW” tag=”h2″]
For the last ten years, Ladybird’s work has focused specifically in two areas: Death and Dying and Sexual Violence. Initially, as both a hospice nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner, she provided direct care to people dying and those surviving sexual assault. This transitioned first into training, managing and supervising teams of people caring for the dying and then for the last three years training, managing, and supervising teams of people providing support to survivors of sexual violence with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). As a facilitator and teacher, Ladybird has guided medical practitioners, families and private caregivers, as well as directors of programs and institutions around the world on how to be present to life stories that may be hard to hear or bear witness to.
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Sandra is an actor, writer, caregiver, with decades of passion for prison reform and EOL issues. She taught in Riker’s Island Prison, worked as an employment specialist for newly released inmates in Manhattan, attended ex-inmate support groups, sat in on parole hearings, and visited SingSing to observe classrooms there. While working with older newly released inmates, she heard time and time again, “I’ll never go back, if I go back, I’ll die in prison, I don’t want to die in prison, I don’t want to die in prison”. Sandra cannot get that out of her head or heart and will not give up on the mission to make sure there is end of life care, with inmates giving the volunteer care in every prison. Currently Sandra is Co-Chair for San Francisco End of Life Network and has trained and worked as a hospice volunteer with added training in pediatric hospice and vigil.
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Lady Bird Morgan and Bob Stilger have know each other for 20 years and it was only natural, as Humane Prison Hospice was evolving, for her to turn to NewStories for help. They needed a fiscal sponsor and a thinking partner to help launch this initiative in the world. As NewStories learned more about Humane Prison Hospice, it became clear to us that it was more than the crucial work of providing hospice support for prisoners. It is also a “camel’s nose under the tent” for creating a whole new narrative for a justice system based on relationships rather than fear.