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Hospice care is meant to address not just the physical needs of the dying, but their mental and emotional needs as well.

Osborn’s hospice may not be as cozy as a living room, but it is a definite step up from a cell or the general medical ward down the hall. The most recent count, conducted ten years ago, found only 65 out of 1,800 correctional facilities had hospice programs.

In fact, they make up the fastest growing population in prisons today: In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the highest number of inmates on record died behind bars, with about 3,500 in state prison and about 450 in federal.

After an inmate embraces the role of caretaker for his patients, “then it becomes more about their relationship to other people …

on a summer Wednesday, and Billy Canady Jr., 47, is beginning his shift as a hospice volunteer. A mermaid looks down on the bed where Stevens is sleeping, part of an ocean-themed mural that sports his sentimental touch: photos of Stevens’ children and grandchildren by the bed.

Canady taps the elderly man lightly on his shoulder to let him know he’s there.

The mantra of hospice is “death with dignity.” It is a comfort-oriented approach to death in which quality of life is deemed as important as the number of days the patient has left.

Pain management is a priority, and unlike the sterile anonymity of a hospital, hospice patients die at home or in a place that feels like home, surrounded by family.

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