Serving Life Review

The 2011 documentary, Serving Life, explores the hospice program at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Throughout history, the prison has been synonymous with chaos, bloodshed and murder. However, the Serving Life documentary shows a different side of the prison, which allows some of the inmates the opportunity to seek redemption for their crimes.

The Louisiana State Prison has been home to some very violent criminals and notable names from Derrick Todd Lee to Lil Boosie. A majority of the inmates are serving extremely long sentences, while many are unfortunate enough to face life sentences. For a prison that houses death row inmates and hosts executions, the documentary explores a much more compassionate and caring aspect of residents of the prison.

The documentary primarily focuses on the hospice program, which is mainly run by the inmates. Since many of the inmates are bound to die within the prison, someone has to care for them. Despite being hard criminals, armed robbers and murderers, these inmates take on the responsibility of caring for fellow dying inmates. Although some will be surprised, the inmates quickly become emotionally attached to their patients and passionately provide support for them, during their final days.

During the opening of the movie, eight new inmates are selected to join the problem. Of course, the documentary only follows four of these individuals. They begin with a forty hour training program, before being assigned their own patients. The real struggles begin, after they’ve taken responsibility for their patients. Some will succeed and some will fail, but each of their lives will be dramatically changed by the experience.


Serving Life is a superb documentary, which is certainly worth a watch. With a calm, thoughtful narration from Forrest Whitaker, the seriousness of the documentary is brought to life. Despite being delivered through a prison environment, the documentary explores many real life problems, including sickness and death. This is definitely an emotional roller coaster, which will have you laughing one minute and fighting back tears the next.

The documentary definitely shines a light on the ways people can redeem themselves. Although their actions cannot be forgotten, it is sometimes possible to rectify previous mistakes. The inmates, which are featured in the documentary, have definitely put an effort towards repaying a debt to society and their own psyche. It also opens an eye to the efficiency of inmates and how some can thrive, when allowed to work and stay busy.

All in all, the documentary is extremely thought provoking. It definitely deserves an 8.5 out of 10.

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