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GeriPal - A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Podcast

Alex Smith and Eric Widera

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GeriPal - A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Podcast
54 MINMAY 20
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Eight of the 10 largest outbreaks in the US have been in correctional facilities. Physical distancing is impossible in prisons and jails - they're not built for it. Walkways 3 feet wide. Bunk beds where you can feel your neighbor's breath. To compound the issue, prisoners are afraid that if they admit they're sick they will be "put in the hole" (solitary confinement). So they don't admit when they're sick.

Many people think of prisons as disconnected from society. Like a cruise ship. "It's happening between those walls, behind the barbed wire, not out here." But for every two people in a correctional facility there's about 1 person who works in the correctional facility and lives in the community. The workers are bringing whatever they've been exposed to in prison out into the community, and bringing whatever they've been exposed to in the community into the prisons. This is a national problem, not a prison or a jail problem.

We learned about these critical issues in our podcast with Brie Williams, Professor of Medicine in the UCSF Division of Geriatrics and Director of Amend (https://amend.us/), a program to change correctional culture; Adnan Khan, Executive Director of Re:store Justice (https://restorecal.org/), a justice advocacy organization; and Eric Maserati-E Abercrombie, a singer/songwriter and filmmaker through First Watch (https://restorecal.org/firstwatch/), a media project of currently and formerly incarcerated filmmakers. Adnan and Eric Maserati-E are former inmates of San Quentin prison.

What can we do about this? The major response should be decarceration. Reduce the crowding in our overcrowded correctional facilities. If prisoners have less than a year left, let them out. If they have a long sentence and are low risk to society, and a place to go, let them go home with an ankle bracelet and return later to complete their sentence.

Brie reminds us that people in prison can make an advance care plan, they can sign an advance directive, they have the right to engage in goals of care decisions, and a right to elect someone to be their health care proxy. And everybody, including prisoners, has a right to say goodbye to their loved one, though it may be by phone or video.

We learn about these and other critical steps we need to take as a society and as hospice and palliative care clinicians.

Eric Maserati-E does the music for this one. He needs to be discovered! If you know someone in the music industry, make them listen to him. Check out and subscribe to Eric's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZN4YxjDR41RL_xIlDysU8Q). Also, listen to this terrific podcast, Ear Hustle (https://www.earhustlesq.com/), produced from inside San Quentin, the latest episode featuring Eric's music.

-@AlexSmithMD