SCI Chester opened the DOC's first Life Enhancement Program Center for senior inmates. This first-of-its-kind center is designed to provide inmates older than 50 years with senior-specific programming and treatment with inmates their own age.
The program was designed through a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and DOC William Penn Fellow Ebony Johnson, who specializes in gerontology and has spent her tenure working with elderly inmates.
The LEPC will offer volunteers from the community—when the prisons open up for volunteers again—or within the DOC to educate participants in age-related topics, including medical, employment and housing for senior citizens. It will also offer a quiet area for senior inmates to get away from the noise of the housing units, as well as designated recreation time for activities with peers their own age.
The LEPC will also offer fresh plants, fish and a tranquil zone for those who just want to sit and relax, as well as an area for playing cards and games or working on arts and crafts with fellow senior inmates.
The DOC considers inmates 50 years or older elderly, and Chester currently has more than 180 elderly inmates—approximately 18 percent of its population. Nearly 25 percent of the overall DOC population is 50 or older.
While SCI Chester is the first prison to offer an LEPC, the goal is to make this program available throughout the DOC to benefit senior inmates. Offering programs such as this can help encourage and motivate senior inmates, who can positively affect their younger peers and the DOC staff.