Atherton resident Lisa Deal updates progress underway with the Humane Prison Hospice Project

by Linda Hubbard on June 19, 2023

Humane Prison Hospice Project — a small California-based non-profit that works to transform the way incarcerated people die through education, advocacy, and training that supports prisoners to provide compassionate end-of-life care for their peers — has had an exciting year of growth and new opportunities that shape the organization’s efforts, reports Executive Director Lisa Deal (pictured far left), who is an Atherton resident.

During the past year the three co-founders of Humane have stepped back to pursue other related work, and the team has welcomed two new staff members — Laura Musselman (pictured far right), an end-of-life doula who works with incarcerated women at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), and Fernando Murillo (pictured second from right), a formerly incarcerated man who spent 24 years in prison and six years as a hospice peer caregiver in California’s only prison hospice program. (Also pictured is Susan Barber who is Program Director for the Palliative Care Initiative.)

About 18 months ago, after working at San Quentin training groups of peer support volunteers with skills needed to support their incarcerated peers nearing the end of life — despite no prison hospice program there — Humane was invited to work with a physician at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to develop a comprehensive, evidenced-based curriculum that could be used to train incarcerated people as compassionate end-of-life peer caregivers in prisons across the State.

Humane’s first program will launch at the California Medical Facility — a 2,000 plus bed prison in Vacaville — this month, with a second program launch planned in a women’s prison in the fall of this year. Currently, there is no formal palliative care or hospice available for incarcerated women in the State.

Correctional leaders in other states are also showing interest in Humane’s work, which Lisa hopes will become a national model for training incarcerated peer caregivers skilled in providing end-of-life care and grief support for their peers, a problem that is becoming more acute with the aging of the prison population. Currently, Humane is collaborating with correctional leaders in Washington, Oregon, and Illinois who are interested in adopting this model.

“Our partnership with physician leaders within the CDCR to advance this work is critical,” says Lisa. “During the first few years after Humane was launched, the team worked tirelessly to train hospice peer caregivers at San Quentin, in the absence of a hospice program there. Now, with the support of the CDCR, there is interest in making good end-of-life care available in all California prisons, and our work is really taking off.”

Photo courtesy of Human Prison Hospice Project


Alice Newton June 20, 2023 at 11:37 am

This is inspiring, wonderful, and an example of a deep level of caring for one another. I hope this movement gets well-funded and will eventually be available in all prisons. Thank you to the founders and supporters.

B. Kemper June 20, 2023 at 12:48 pm

I’m absolutely happy to hear that more is done for incarcerated, dying inmates. I have a love one at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, and at 74 (him), I do worry for him. I do hope that family members are included with the hospice caring. Thank you for your work everyone.

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