Grace Before Dying - Morning Line-Up
Grace Before Dying - Security Pat Down
Grace Before Dying - Terry is Locked Down
Grace Before Dying - Timothy's Strength
Grace Before Dying - Lifting George Out Of Bed
Grace Before Dying - George's Nickname
Grace Before Dying - Fresh Air
Grace Before Dying - Hospice Pallbearers
Grace Before Dying - Bones Drives Funeral Hearse
Grace Before Dying - Carnation
A life sentence means life at Angola, Louisiana's State Penitentiary. More than 85 percent of the 5,100 prisoners at Angola are expected to die there. Until the hospice program was created in 1998, prisoners died mostly alone and unattended in the prison hospital. Their bodies were buried in shoddy boxes in numbered graves at the prison cemetery. But, a nationally recognized hospice program staffed by prisoner volunteers has changed that.
"Grace Before Dying" is inspired by the volunteers and the patients as they go through the days of death together. The volunteers must first find the love within themselves in order to do this work. They battle an undertow of dread that they might, one day, be patients in the same hospice program that they helped to create. Despite their fears and regrets, they have discovered that humanity and courage is possible even in an environment designed to isolate and punish.
In telling this story, the panoramic frame allows me to connect to the intensity of the moment and provides a respectful space for that moment to be recorded. The wide dimensions seem to speak to the emotional and environmental boundaries that the volunteers and patients exist in. Angola is a massive top-security prison, occupying flat delta land equal to the size of Manhattan. Beyond the physical landscape, the panoramic frame also resonates with the endless time line of a lifelong prison sentence.