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Serving Life: Prison Hospice

Originally conceived by Nick Stuart, President of Odyssey Networks, in conjunction with exec producer, Molly M. Fowler, the film is written and directed by Lisa R. Cohen, a superb film-maker from Winnipeg, Canada, who incisively reveals the inner torment of all-male prison inmates, most of whom are serving hard time life sentences in a maximum security facility (Angola, Louisiana) for a variety of crimes, including murder, armed robbery, and rape.
In “SERVING LIFE,” we get a glimpse into a special nucleus of prison life, specifically those lifers dying of terminal disease and the inmates selected to care for them in their final days. The in-prison hospice program is the brainchild of an enlightened warden by the name of Burl Cain.
The longtime warden, Burl Cain, says he has been moved by observing the kind of care his inmates are capable of giving one another. Hospice, Cain says, “is a way to die with your family. This [prison] is your family. . . . Hospice is the chance to prove — have you changed or have you not?”
Cohen’s camera follows four volunteers in the prison’s hospice unit as they receive training and care for their first patients. The rookies include a murderer, an accomplice to murder, a bank robber and a drug thug.
Even in an alternate world such as Angola, death becomes universal. Anyone who has ever had a loved one tended to by a benevolent hospice worker will recognize the gentility, hard labor and rewards of the hospice way. The men learn to bathe and dress their patients and clean up their foul diapers and sheets. They hold the hands of the dying, stroke their heads, give them a shave, rub lotion on painful limbs.
Thus, an armed-robbery convict nicknamed Boston is assigned to care for a cranky pedophile with an inoperable brain tumor. Working against factors of age, race and temperament, a friendship is nevertheless formed, and death is faced with newfound dignity.
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