Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Social work with criminals, Terminal care-Psychological aspects, Prisoners-Hospice care, Prisoners-Death-Psychological aspects, Inmates, Prison, Hospice, End-of-life, Social workers, Barriers, Correctional institutions, Identity


The purpose of this qualitative, exploratory study was to identify and examine barriers that impact social workers' capacity to provide end-of-life care to biopsychosocially, spiritually vulnerable inmates. The study was guided by the research question, What barriers impact social workers' capacity to provide end-of-life care to inmates? A sample of 12 master's-level social workers was recruited and interviewed. The sample consisted of ten women, two men, and one person of color. Participants in the sample worked in seven correctional institutions, in seven states, at the federal, state and county level. The study's findings indicate that at each of these levels, the correctional institution's environment, staff, and policies presented participants with the most substantial and entrenched barriers to their provision of end-of-life care to inmates. Participants also reported that their personal characteristics as well as those of their inmate patients negatively impacted their capacity to provide end-of-life care. Implications for social work research, practice, and education as well as social welfare policy in this specialty are discussed. The urgency to reduce and mitigate the negative impact correctional institutions have on social workers' capacity to provide endof- life care to biopsychosocially, spiritually oppressed and vulnerable inmates is underscored.




iii, 128 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 107-118)