State Penitentiary at Angola has historically been one of the most dangerous
maximum security prisons in the United States. A voluntary inmate hospice
program initiated in 1998 has transformed the prison into one of the least
Dying” is an award-winning photographic documentary by Lori Waselchuk that
chronicles the prisoner-run hospice program at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
A community exhibition with quilts created by the hospice volunteers is on
display in the Community Center at Clackamas Community College through June 28.
photographic display and the quilts not only show a culture of caring and
compassion that challenges stereotypes of the incarcerated, but also provides
an intimate and personal perspective on what long-term and life sentences
signify for those inside.
Most of Angola’s
inmates are expected to die there. Until the hospice program was created,
prisoners died mostly alone in the prison hospital, and their bodies were
buried in shoddy graves in the prison cemetery. The nationally recognized
hospice program has changed that.
Now, when a
terminally ill inmate is too sick to live among the general prison population,
he is transferred to the hospice ward. Here, inmate volunteers work closely
with hospital and security staff to care for the patient. The volunteers, most
of whom are serving life sentences themselves, try to keep the patients as
comfortable as possible. Then, 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.
volunteers' efforts to create a tone of reverence for the dying and the dead
have touched the entire prison population.
Waselchuk is a
documentary photographer whose photos have been featured in magazines and
newspapers worldwide. She has reproduced photographs for several international
aid organizations. The photos in the Grace Before Dying exhibit are also in a
book by the same title that includes essays by the photographer and Lawrence N.
Powell, a history professor at Tulane University.
A video about the
exhibit, followed by an informal discussion will take place on Monday, May 13,
from 10 to 11 a.m. in room 127 of the Community Center at CCC. The exhibit will
be featured in two upcoming community events: the engAge in Community Expo on
May15, and the Northwest Justice Forum June 25-27.
The exhibit at CCC
is sponsored by the Education, Human Services and Criminal Justice Department.
For more information, please contact Yvonne Smith at 503-594-5207 or Ida Flippo