Workshop 6.2

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Analysis of Key Issues 3

Recommendations 8

Conclusion 12

References 14

Analysis of Key Issues

There are various themes and concepts that emerged from the literature review. First, it was apparent that mourning behind bars is an experience that majority of incarcerated persons in the United States go through. It does not affect minorities but rather a large section of the population of inmates in the course of their sentence. There is a simple logic to this. To begin with, it is natural that someone loses a relative or friend at least once in a few years. It then follows that the loss of a loved one while serving a lengthy sentence such as ten years is an expected outcome. Therefore, it was inevitable that prisons were likely to have mourning inmates at one point or the other. Apart from the fact that grief affects majority of the inmates, it must be noted that some vulnerable groups are affected disproportionately. For instance, Moloney et al. (2009) estimated at least half of women in custody to have lost a loved one within the course of their sentence. The emotional nature of women suggests that they are likely to suffer more emotional distress than men in such circumstances. Another group that is disproportionately affected is the elderly. In recent years, it has been a concern regarding the huge number of elderly people behind bars. These are persons suffering from physical and cognitive frailties, and as such the advent of grief only aggravates their pain and suffering. While they cannot be excused of their sentences, the additional burden of grief while in incarceration can be attenuated. The first issue that therefore arises from the review is the wide scope of the grief problem in prisons. It not only affects a majority of the prison population but also aggravates the suffering of vulnerable groups such as women and elderly inmates. This answers the problem as to whether the issue of mourning in prison was qualified as a managerial concern. An issue affecting the majority of inmates and increasing pain among the most vulnerable groups in an organization is definitely a managerial concern.

More importantly, the intensity of the pain in mourning behind bars emerged clearly. It is a normal human experience to mourn whenever a loved one is lost and even without being incarcerated; coming to terms with death of a friend or relative is never an easy task. One often requires some time and space to mourn and finally come to terms with the loss. Psychologists have established that mourning is a process that must be completed for one to find closure. With that in mind, the prison experience has special conditions that make grief even more burdensome. First, there is no space to mourn after one loses a loved one. They have to keep up with the routines of their sentence and in some few cases where the prison system is lenient, plans are made to have them attend the funeral. However, it was demonstrated that there is uncertainty with regard to the process of allowing a convicted person to attend a funeral. Different states have their own laws regarding that but in most cases each incident is reviewed on an ad hoc basis. Masterton (2014) highlighted a case in which a prisoner is given hope of attending the burial of a loved one only to have the situation changed on the final day. The review board may simply rescind the decision to allow their attendance or in some cases circumstances may change and make it no longer tenable to allow them attendance. This causes further emotional trauma that cannot be addressed by the presence of psychologists and chaplains. Prisoners generally find mourning behind bars to be many times more emotionally, psychologically and mentally unsettling than in the case of a free person. It should be appreciated that the prison experience itself invokes mourning of its own kind. Take for instance a correctional facility like USP Terra Haute where a majority of the inmates are death row. The torture of awaiting execution causes enough grief of its own kind.  de Vries (2017) adds that the activities in the prison break down the individual; describing incarceration as an assault on both the body and the spirit. In that event, the added pain of losing a loved one only works to compound the grief. The final aspect of mourning behind bars worthy of consideration is the idea that prisoners who lose loved ones become disenfranchised mourners. As free persons grieve together with their kith and kin, a prisoner bears the pain alone and has no one to console with. The sum of all these factors is that indeed, there is disproportionate emotional distress amongst prisoners following the loss of their loved ones and the consequent denial of a chance to attend their burial. 

The essential question that was explored in this paper was the emotional impact of mourning on the prison population vis a vis the practicality of providing funeral attendance arrangements. From the earlier analysis, it was apparent that the emotional impact of mourning while incarcerated was excessive and affecting a large portion of the prison population, hence qualifying as a managerial concern. There was no doubt that there was need to address the issue. A more compelling reason why mourning while behind bars needed to be addressed was the impact it had on the behavior of the prisoners. Marzano et al. (2016) did show that mourning in a disenfranchised manner had mental and psychological impacts on the prisoner, with some committing suicide and other becoming overly aggressive due to the experience. They ended up hating on the correctional officers even more and were consequently engaged in fights and acts of dissent against warders. The impact of those fights was emotional and psychological distress on correctional officers, some of whom ended up with the same trauma that the prisoners faced. In some extreme cases, officers were badly wounded or even killed while in confrontation with prisoners. This has led to an extremely low life expectancy amongst correctional officers and traumatic experiences even after leaving the profession. The emotional burden of grief behind bars is therefore twofold, affecting both the prisoners and the wardens. On the other hand, arranging for funeral attendance had its own challenges. To begin with, there was lack of clear, enabling legislation and guidelines for the same in most states. In states where legislation exists allowing prisoners to attend the funerals of their loved ones, there are no specific guidelines for the same with the rest of the activities and arrangements left to the department of corrections. This led to mixed successes in such initiatives, with some prisoners lucky to attend the final send off of their loved ones and a majority unsuccessful. Some of the reasons for failure included the behavior of the prisoner in the past that would make them regarded a flight or social risk and the logistical costs of making such arrangements. Prisons had budgetary problems to the extent that the burden of spending money to assist a prisoner in attending the burial of a loved one was barely a priority. On the use of technology in enabling prisoners attend live funerals from their bedside, there was barely any attempts of that nature in the US. Rajavelu (2014) only hinted of the same arrangements but in the Irish context. The proposal was low cost, less risky and manifestly practical were it to be piloted. In the end, it was clear that the emotional trauma caused by grieving indoors was significant enough to warrant marshalling of prison resources to enable incarcerated persons attend the funerals of their loved ones. The technological proposals were locally untested but practical enough to address the need through live bedside funerals.

It was also apparent that there were no ethical inhibitors to the implementation of the proposal. There were various ethical issues surrounding correctional service but none of them indicate any prejudice towards allowing prisoners to attend the funerals of their loved ones whether in person or via live feed. Tonry (2013) highlighted some of the ethical issues in correctional service including collection of data for research purposes within such facilities and the high rates of recidivism from members of a certain race/ethnicity. None of these ethical issues hold significant implications on the provision of live bedside funerals for inmates save for the fact that the recidivism can be partly addressed by the proposed solution. By allowing prisoners to mourn and find closure, their mental frame improves and hence their chances of repeating offenses reduce. Other ethical issues include making profits out of correctional services, which relates to the commissioning of private prisons in the country. It created a conflict of interest in that one was not expected to rehabilitate prisoners if their profits were derived from crime. While this may have no direct bearing on the provision of funeral attendance to bereaved prisoners, it may have an effect on making such decisions. Live funerals are meant to improve the mental health of prisoners, rehabilitate them and set them towards the path of correction. If a facility is not interested in correcting behavior and profits from repeat offenses, it is unlikely to tolerate such. Instead, they would be interested in creating more psychological trauma and making the inmates more aggressive in the process. 

The sum of this analysis therefore brings to light three major findings. First, the bereavement of prisoners is a widespread problem affecting the majority of the prison population. It is a systemic problem that is worthy of managerial attention given its implications on the prisoners, warders and the general prison environment. Secondly, the emotional, psychological and mental burden of losing a loved one while in incarceration is incomparable to the grief of free persons by a large proportion. There is an element of disenfranchisement, compounding of grief and additional psychological trauma. When the emotional burden was weighed against the logistical and financial costs of providing funeral attendance, in person or via live feed, it was clear that the emotional burden was heavier and hence provision of live funeral attendance was justified. The prison environment can greatly benefit from less aggressive, non-violent and cooperative inmates with improved mental health. Finally, there was no ethically relevant constraint against the provision of live funerals to prisoners or allowing them to attend in person. Most of the ethical issues regarding prisons included research, privatization and recidivism, none of which were related to the provision of live funerals to inmates. Therefore, the proposal was both justified and ethically grounded, hence deserving of implementation.


Having established that mourning in prison affects many inmates and has widely scoped consequences on their mental, social and psychological wellbeing, it is hereby recommended that the USP Terra Haute correctional facility provides the necessary technological integration to enable live bedside funeral feeds for bereaved inmates. Various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have live functions which can be harnessed in ensuring that inmates can view the wake of their loved ones, burial ceremonies and associated gatherings and hence find closure in their losses. The setting of the arrangement should be as simple as possible, with a chaplain and a counselor expected to accompany the inmate in viewing the funeral proceedings. They then can turn on the live feed from the funeral proceedings using a technological gadget such as a computer or tablet to be able to access the broadcast. More importantly, this should happen in an appropriate room where there is privacy to allow for mourning and counseling. The facility should come up with necessary security protocols to allow for prisoner transfer and safety of all those involved in the process. It is noteworthy that such processes in the prison setting are capable of being abused for break outs and committing of other crimes. This is a high possibility given that criminal gangs are rampant in prisons and take the slightest opportunity to unleash violence. Therefore, the provision of security, technological means, counseling services, space and time and a chaplain are the imperatives of providing live bedside funerals for inmates that have been bereaved in the course of their sentence.

As earlier identified, the issue of providing live funeral attendances for inmates at USP Terra Haute is of strategic importance. This implies that there must be a strategy for successful implementation. Noteworthy, there have been challenges in the status quo, in which denying the prisoners the permission to attend funerals has made them more violent and aggressive. In the rare occasions that such permission has been granted, there have been challenges and uncertainty in carrying out the orders. For instance, some prisoners have had their planned attendances to the burials of their loved ones aborted in the final moments of the journey out of managerial discretion. Underlying causes range from social and flight risks to mundane grounds like the management’s gut feeling. This is because the enabling legislation in most states is rudimentary and leaves it upon the correctional facility to make the ultimate judgment on whether to allow or disallow attendance. In addition, there are no clear regulations or rights of prisoners in the event of bereavement, creating managerial loopholes that may suffice disappointments at any time. The need for a clear strategy in carrying out the proposal has thus never been more clearly elucidated. This is besides there being a need to carry out a cost-benefit analysis regarding the physical attendance of the prisoner vis a vis watching via live feed. First, the challenges in both situations need to be weighed and the relative effectiveness of each method. It is clear that live bedside funerals carry lesser risks and have lower logistical costs compared to personal attendance. Secondly, the possibility of combining both methods where applicable is another element of strategy that should be set clear. This is because a one-shoe-size-fits-all approach may not work as each prisoner may have their own needs. Past challenges and such issues together indicate that there is need for a proper strategy if success is to be realized in the circumstances. 

The first stage in the implementation process is stakeholder engagement. Though the department of correctional services often operates at a considerable level of autonomy, it remains important to engage all stakeholders in the implementation of the proposal if it is to yield any positive results. Notably, the challenges that need to be surmounted in actualizing the live bedside funeral technology shall require both material and non material stakeholder support. Facilities like the USP Terra Haute operate on slim budgets and perennially decry the limitation of funds to improve conditions in the prison environment. This is normally a shortage of funds for running day to day operations. It then follows that raising funds for a new initiative like this one would need both state and federal budgetary support. These are the main stakeholders in the provision of resources for the proposed initiative. On the flipside, there is need for better legislation to enable the technology and codify the regulations through which the live funerals shall be provided. This also calls for stakeholder engagement, more so legislators and the relevant government agencies with direct resonance to the matter. They shall create the enabling legislation where it is missing, refine regulations where loopholes exist and offer leadership in ethical issues.  In other words, the federal, state and other government agencies are critical stakeholders without whom the project is unlikely to succeed. They must therefore be engaged actively and their input factored in as the project is designed. More importantly, the inmates themselves need to be engaged with respect to the proposal. This is because it is about them and they are best placed to give insights on the how, where and when of the project. As indicated earlier, different prisoners may have different needs and opinions about the manner in which the live funerals ought to be conducted. Failure to take in their concerns may render the whole initiative useless as they may not consume the services. Generally, the initial implementation stage should encompass bringing together different stakeholders and getting their input on the proposals. 

Once stakeholders have been fully engaged and their ideas factored into the design of the project, the next stage becomes resource mobilization. As has been indicated earlier, most correctional facilities are bootstrapped and barely meet their daily operational needs. As such, the successful implementation of the project shall require active resource mobilization prior to embarking on the project. Sources of finances include state and federal agencies to which budgetary estimates and the full contours of the proposal shall be availed as well as non state actors. The government agencies can set aside funds for the initiative through their budgeting processes. On the other hand, non state actors shall entail non profits working closely with correctional facilities to improve the lives of inmates. The issue of rehabilitating prisoners and allowing them to mourn their loved ones by extension is a humanitarian issue. This opens the door to NGOs and other non state actors to provide funding for an initiative like the live bedside funerals. More fundamentally, there shall be need for human capital to help in the integration of the technology as well as carry out the project. This means that people with the necessary skills and expertise shall be needed to assist the prisons department in designing and piloting the program. Thereafter, USP Terra Haute shall require additional wardens to oversee prisoner transfer and support during mourning. In a nutshell, there is need for material, technical and human resource mobilization in the implementation of the project.

With the resources available, the project can now be implemented. The roll out should however be carried out in stages to ensure that there is room for monitoring and evaluation.  In the event that some aspects of the program are found to be ineffective, the facility can always revisit their strategy. There is always need to roll out new programs and technology in incremental and iterative processes to ensure that resources are put into best use and there is further creation of confidence with the main stakeholders. In the foregoing, the organization must keep refining their strategy to align it with their initial goals. Noteworthy, USP Terra Haute is a unique correctional facility on its own right and therefore the strategy to be employed in the roll out of the new technology may be at variance with many available industry exemplars. The management shall be required to provide proper leadership and change management from the beginning to the end of the project. In other words, the strategic management process should be employed in running the program, encompassing the strategic planning, strategic implementation and strategic monitoring and evaluation. This shall ensure that the live bedside funeral program for inmates is carried out in both a strategic and sustainable manner.


It has been demonstrated in this project that majority of prisoners get bereaved while serving their sentences and are not accorded an opportunity to mourn in the process. Mourning in incarceration is disproportionately painful as it disenfranchises the mourner and in most instances denies them the time and space to grieve and find closure. The implications of this phenomenon on prisoners are widely scoped and detrimental. They range from increased aggression and violence to poor mental and psychological health amongst the prisoners. It was proposed that live bedside funerals were introduced to help avert this problem, leveraging on the latest technologies. These shall entail the use of technological gadgets such as computers to bring in live feed from the funeral proceedings in the presence of a counselor, chaplain and security officers. The reviewed literature demonstrated that the loss of loved ones while in prison happens to a huge number of inmates, causes disproportionate emotional burden and is largely unaddressed. There was no ethically relevant reason as to why prisoners should not be allowed to have live bedside funerals despite their criminal status. Therefore, the idea was recommended for implementation. The latter process must have a clear strategy and begin with stakeholder engagement, then resource mobilization. The project can then be rolled out, but again in stages, to allow for strategic monitoring and evaluation and consequent refinement of strategy. It was generally concluded that the initiative can only succeed if it is carried out in a sustainable and strategic manner through the application of the strategic management process. 


de Vries, N. (2017). Rebellious Mourning: the collective work of grief. Ak Press

Marzano, L., Hawton, K., Rivlin, A., Smith, E. N., Piper, M., & Fazel, S. (2016). Prevention of suicidal behavior in prisons. Crisis.

Masterton, J. (2014). A confined encounter: the lived experience of bereavement in prison. Bereavement Care33(2), 56-62.

Moloney, K. P., van den Bergh, B. J., & Moller, L. F. (2009). Women in prison: The central issues of gender characteristics and trauma history. Public Health123(6), 426-430.

Rajavelu, T. (2014). Alternatives to Prisoner Release for Funerals. The Funeral Law Blog. Retrieved from 

Tonry, M. (2013). Legal and ethical issues in the prediction of recidivism. Fed. Sent’g Rep.26, 167.

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