Beyond the Badge

Stephanie Griffone makes a difference at CIW

California Institution for Women aerial view.
California Institution for Women.

Clinical Psychologist discusses Psychiatric In-Patient Program

Stephanie Griffone, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at California Institution for Women (CIW). She started working for the Division of Juvenile Justice in 2006 at the Heman G Stark Youth Correctional Facility. When the facility closed, she transferred to CIW.

Inside CDCR caught up with Griffone to discuss her career path and the work she does with the Psychiatric In-Patient Program (PIP).

Q&A with Clinical Psychologist Stephanie Griffone

What path led you to working in the PIP at CIW?

Portrait of smiling woman Stephanie Griffone.
Stephanie Griffone, PhD.

I was hired by DJJ when I was finishing my doctorate in Clinical Psychology. As soon as my degree posted, I began working in Chino in the Intensive Treatment Program. It is similar to the Enhanced Out-Patient level of care in CDCR. I really enjoyed working there.

On one memorable Sunday, one of the wards had climbed up on the roof of a two-story housing unit. Despite the noise from the air show that day at the airport across the street, I was able to help persuade him to remove the torn sheet from his neck and safely come down. As the population of DJJ decreased, the decision was made to close the facility.

Transferring to CIW in February 2010, I worked in the Administrative Segregation Unit and saw quite a few changes while there. For example, during Realignment, Valley State Prison for Women became Valley State Prison. The Security Housing Unit was moved to CIW, serving both AdSeg and SHU populations. Also, Non-Disciplinary Segregation and Short-Term/Long-Term Restricted Housing Units were just starting to be developed and implemented. Then, I transferred to the CIW PIP in August 2013, where I have been ever since.

The basics of the Psychiatric In-Patient Program

What is PIP?

The PIP is the Psychiatric In-Patient Program. It is like a state hospital level of care, but within CDCR and run by CDCR. The CIW PIP is a 45-bed building on the grounds at CIW. The patients treated here are kept separate from the rest of the prison. Most are experiencing serious mental illness that has significantly impaired their functioning like:

  • Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or Major Depressive Disorder
  • and/or have harmed themselves or others
  • or tried to kill themselves.

When I started in the PIP, it had been open for about 13 months. There have been a lot of changes in this PIP. And, as the only PIP in a women’s facility, we provide treatment for people at a variety of custody levels.

Griffone describes a day on the job

What is a typical day like for you?

My day usually starts by reading reports for the previous 24 hours, compiled by the Supervising Psychiatric Technicians with input from nursing, custody, and clinical staff on events and changes throughout the day. If there have been any incidents of minor misbehavior, or anything of a more serious nature such as harm to self or others, the individual’s treatment team, as well as input from nursing and custody staff, will consult about how to address this, such as maintaining or changing observation status, changes to the treatment plan, or consequences for not following rules. I also lead clinical groups several days a week, and meet with the residents on my caseload for individual sessions, as well as participating in Interdisciplinary Treatment Team (IDTT) meetings.

PIP has a great pre-release coordinator who works with parole and probation to help ensure appropriate services are available to people who have transitioned back into the community. My favorite part of working in PIP is being part of great treatment teams, and our discussions and working together to provide the best treatment we can.

The importance of mental health

What is one of the most important pieces of mental health treatment inside correctional systems?

I would say that being able to identify people who need mental health treatment is one of the most important pieces. If mental health staff are not aware of someone needing treatment, it doesn’t matter how great our treatment is, it won’t reach that person who needs it.

I think it’s important that mental health staff work closely with the custody and nursing staff who have more frequent interactions with the population. They usually are the first who notice changes in regular behavior, or odd or unusual things, and can let mental health staff know. I think another important piece of mental health treatment is addressing substance abuse. Sobriety is an important part of rehabilitation.

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