By Lt. Gregory R. Bergersen
Valley State Prison for Women VSPW has developed an important tool to assist inmates 55 years or older with activities that help encourage positive thoughts and behaviors.
The program is sponsored by Clinical Psychologist Sherri Rossi, Ph.D.
The Senior Inmate Living Quarters (SILQ) program provides senior inmates the opportunity to interact and participate in activities with inmates of like age.
In addition to her assigned duties, Dr. Rossi has been focused on this segment of the inmate population since the group’s inception in 2006.
Dr. Rossi said older inmates have needs that require special attention.
The inmates in the program have developed a strong bond that helps them keep a positive frame of mind. Although the inmates assigned to the SILQ have some of the same issues that concern younger inmates, the older inmates have different needs for medical care, diet and everyday living skills.
Dr. Rossi said, “The program evokes a sense of safety and calm from some of the harshness that can be experienced behind prison walls.”
There are 63 female offenders assigned to the SILQ program.
The SILQ inmates began a crocheting project to provide blankets to the Fresno County Veterans Hospital. The project promotes a strong sense of self worth.
Several inmates participated in the project with the primary goal of providing blankets to wounded veterans.
Patricia Frye, an inmate assigned to the SILQ dorm said: “I found the blanket project to very rewarding. It is easy to get lost in the system… However since moving into the SILQ unit, I am able to converse and interact with inmates who share some of my life experiences. When we are able to work together and accomplish a goal like the veterans blankets, it really lifts my spirits and gives me a great feeling. It is important to stay active and to work on positive things.”
Ron Davis, acting warden at VSPW, said: “This is a very important program for our senior inmate population. Inmates who are in the SILQ program have needs that are unique to that segment of our overall population.
“It is important that we recognize those needs and work diligently to address them. Dr. Rossi has developed a strong sense of community in the SILQ housing unit which benefits all of the inmates in the SILQ program and therefore the institution as a whole.”