A Columbus, Georgia, sheriff opened what's believed to be a first-of-its-kind jail in April 2012 dedicated to providing offenders who are military veterans with mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling and community transition skills in a sort of boutique setting.
Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr said in May that he created the new 16-man, dorm-style jail to break the cycle of recidivism — for veterans only, never mind the prisoners in the lesser county lockup — by bringing together "specialist services."
It's really unique." Darr said. "What we're bringing together is a lot of resources."
Those resources include Veterans Court, a community group that helps veterans in prison who have mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
"This is the first time I've been in jail and it's the place I thought I'd be," said Army veteran Wilbert Cox. "We're not just thrown into the wolves' den. There is something available to us for our service to our country.
At least 140,000 veterans were locked up in U.S. prisons back in 2004, at the height of the American occupation of Iraq, and that figure could represent a mere fraction of the number of vets currently in county jails. Recent data is hard to come by to quantify the problem today. However, the Drug Policy Alliance says that substance abuse is high among veterans, and Veterans Affairs estimates that 67.000 veterans are homeless every night.
The jail will also focus extra resources on soon-to-be-released veteran offenders to provide advice and support on transitioning hack into the community.
"If (veterans) are not dealing with issues they may have, where are they going to go?" Darr said. "They're going to go to local county jails."
Too bad Darr and others in law enforcement and the criminal justice system don't have the same compassion for offenders who suffered their own domestic war zones--broken homes, abusive parents and mental illness—without having to leave American soil.
Source: The Guardian. www.guardian.co.uk
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