Sunday, March 2, 2014
I’m know I’m not alone in pining for in-depth portrayals in mainstream culture of the complexities in caring for people near the end of their lives. Working in palliative care and hospice allows us to witness (and sometimes be part of) wonderful stories of love, forgiveness and redemption. Stories that would seem to fit in any high quality film or TV show come naturally in our field. So tonight when the Academy Awards are being handed out, keep an ear out for Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall. It may only be mentioned right before a commercial break, or not at all on the telecast, but it is something any hospice advocate should know about.
This film was featured in the early stages here on Pallimed by Dr. Holly Yang back in 2011 when Edgar Barens was still developing financing for the film. Although the initial Kickstarter did not reach the funding goal, Mr. Barens kept at it. The Oscar nominated film for Best Short Subject Documentary features the story of Jack Hall who is confined at Iowa State Penitentiary for life. With the aging prison population, hospice prisons are becoming more common, the most famous (if you can call it that) is Angola Prison Hospice, which was featured in another film by Edgar Barens.
The film has been getting some high praise for a intimate look into the tough subject. While a few prisoners do get parole or compassionate release if they are dying, the chances are much greater that they may die in prison if they are in for life or a very long sentence. I realize many would think there is not problem with someone dying in prison as part of the ultimate punishment for the crimes they have been sentenced for. But when you watch films like Prison Terminal or the other two documentaries by Mr. Barens on the subject (Angola Prison Hospice: Opening the Door and A Sentence of Their Own), it can really make you think about the human condition and the role of prison and redemption in challenging new ways.
You can catch the film on HBO at the end of March and I really hope you do, so we can have a great discussion about it afterwards here.
Find more about the film and the filmmaker, Edgar Barens, at the Prison Terminal Website, Facebook, and Twitter (@prisonterminal)