Ruth Starseed

Reflections on Compassionate release from the Hospice Care Team SCI Phoenix/Pennsylvania

First story

I shall reflect on the very first patient/inmate who I witnessed released to a Hospice Care facility. And the joy Brother Abdul displayed when it came time for him to sign out of Graterford Prison. His new abode was at the Old Saint Agnes Burn Center which had been converted into a full time hospice care facility. Upon arrival his family had been waiting with some real classy pajamas and bath robe. Brother Abdul immediately sent us some pictures of his room with a view from the balcony with overnight accommodations for his family. Brother Abdul didn’t focus on how many days he had left in this realm, but in the beauty found in the quality of life, in the joyous moment.

As a hospice care provider going on 14 years now, there hasn’t been a “Compassionate Release” witnessed by or for any other patient that was smooth and trouble free for all parties involved. This is the compassionate release policy we need to have reinstated. (H.H. SCI Phoenix)

Second Story Hospice Team SCI Phoenix

As a hospice volunteer worker, when we think about Compassionate Release, I believe a prisoner should be able to die with dignity along-side their family members.  The last person I remember was Mr. Frank R . I can remember Frank like it was yesterday. Frank was a person that was thankful for each day and for everything that was done for him. He got the chance to get out on compassionate release and the next day he passed away, his family by his side. God Bless his Soul. Most of us don’t want to die in prison. So for that reason I am so happy that compassionate release exists. (A.W. SCI Phoenix)

Third Story Hospice Team SCI Phoenix

Compassionate release is important to me because being terminally ill in prison isn’t only a slow, depressed and lonely death to the prisoner, but it is also a heavy burden on the prisoner’s family as well.

Let’s be real. Everyone knows that prisoners don’t get the best medical treatment. Although there are a lot of nurses to help here and they do care and do everything they can to assist the terminal patient, but they can only do as much as the head doctor’s and Superintendent’s allow. Everything is very limited. For example, Frankie was one of our hospice patients. He wanted to eat but couldn’t stomach the prison food. He loved eating scrambled eggs and he could stomach that. But special meals were not approved. Despite his family visiting him, they could only visit him two people at a time which put a burden on the family. If he had been released, the family could have been by his side at his final moments and made him more comfortable. There wouldn’t be any limits during the dying process. I believe everyone deserves to die with dignity and be with their family while going through the end of life process. This is why compassionate release is important to me. (J.D.C. SCI Phoenix)


Fourth Story Hospice Team SCI Phoenix

The last and only person that I know who received compassionate release was Mr. Frank “Frankie” Rodriguez. It gave me hope that there are people with authority who have a heart. I was overjoyed with emotions when I found out Frankie was granted compassionate release. I remember clinching a victory fist with the arm pump closing my eyes and saying “Yes!” I was so happy for Frankie. But waiting for that answer for compassionate release I was so nervous for him because I knew they didn’t really grant compassionate release in Pennsylvania. However, I also knew Frankie was determined because he told me he wasn’t going to die in prison, and he didn’t. The process was so long and drawn out. I was getting upset because it was taking months and Frankie only had days to live. Frankie inspired me so much because of his mental strength. Despite having days to life he held on for those months and was eventually granted compassionate release. He left the prison on a Friday around 4 PM and passed away Sunday morning around 4-5 AM.

I relay wish there would be a way to get sick patients out faster. I believe when a person is diagnosed with a disease that could be terminal that the family/attorney should be able to file the paperwork in advance. This way everything would be completed while the patient is going through treatment. This way everything would be ready if the patient is deemed terminal. Once give the diagnoses of being terminal and given less than a year to live, the proper authority would be notified and the patient released within 24 hours. If the patient recovery goes into remission the pre-compassionate release papers would become void and destroyed. Most patients in prison die within a couple of days of being diagnosed as terminal. They don’t have a chance at compassionate release. (J.D.C. SCI Phoenix)