While comprising only eight percent of all inmates in the United States, veterans are getting quite a bit of attention in US prisons and jails- including special cellblocks where they can convene and work through issues together.
“It’s not just us and our thoughts all day,” said James Gibson, a 31-year-old Navy veteran who was serving a 60-day criminal contempt sentence. “Everybody who’s been in here has been in the service. So we can all relate to at least that.”
“Veteran pods” are becoming a common part of state and county lockups across the US, partially in response to changing attitudes toward veterans in the criminal justice system.
Veteran inmates are more likely to have reported mental health issues, such as PTSD and other trauma- at the same time, they appear particularly adept at being able to work through problems when placed together.
Some veteran pods -like those in Florida- feature aspects of military life, such as monthly formations and daily flag raisings. Others, like those in Albany, New York and San Francisco, lean more towards yoga and meditation.
Still, the esprit-de-corps seems to often fill a void in regards to what is missing in the lives of many veterans.
“We send all these young men and women overseas and when they come back, a lot of them with PTSD, domestic violence, drug issues,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, who started the veterans pod more than three years ago. “And I just felt we could have treated them better or done something for them.”
According to the Associated Press, Apple added that only 6% of veterans in the Albany program have returned- a stark contrast to the 40% return rate in typical jail populations.
Other veterans have been set up with transitional programs to help them move on and succeed after their internment ended.
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