Seven days a week, the workers pull 10- to 15-hour shifts, often longer. It’s one of the lowest paid jobs available, making just 15 to 32 cents an hour. They brush patients’ teeth, massage sore limbs, read books out loud, strip soiled mattresses and assist the medical staff. Trust is a rare currency in prison, and some patients whisper conspiracies that the hospice doctors and nurses prioritize the interests of the criminal-justice system over their well-being. The workers can serve as the trusted middlemen between the patients and medical staff. When patients are in their final hours, it is the workers who sit bedside, holding round-the-clock vigils. They pride themselves on their policy: No prisoner here dies alone.
People have a phenomenal capacity for kindness and courage, and we underestimate that just all the goddamn time.