On January 30, 2022, Lesley A. Sharp, the Barbara Chamberlain & Helen Chamberlain Josefsberg ’30 Professor of Anthropology, published new research in the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly. The article, titled “Death and Dying in Carceral America: The Prison Hospice as an Inverted Space of Exception,” considers the idea that death by incarceration looms as inescapable for inmates who are terminally ill or aging in prison.
Prof. Sharp studies a prison-based hospice program that is staffed by male inmate volunteers in a mixed medium/maximum security prison. Her research focuses on the experiences of the men who sit by the bedsides of those who are dying. Sharp considers the assumption that prisons are states of exception, epitomized by substandard prison medicine, the devaluation of care, and the neglect of the ill and aging. Her study reveals that inmate-driven end-of-life care results in an inverted space of non-judgmental praxis that envelops the dying man and instigates self-reflection, change, and self-care among the inmate volunteers.