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Georgia Opens Prison for Veterans

Georgia Opens Prison for Veterans

Good news/bad news. The good news is that a county in Georgia is going above and beyond the norm to provide assistance to military veterans in need. The bad news is that they have to go to jail first to receive it.

All too commonly, when veterans return to American society following their service, the transition is not easy. Veterans are at a heightened risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, economic troubles and homelessness. Since these are all common factors that contribute to civilians turning to a life of crime, it is no surprise that veterans suffer a similar fate.

To combat this problem, officials in Columbus, Georgia have opened a prison facility just for veterans, The Guardian and the Ledger-Enquirer report. Since in so many ways these veterans have been set up to fail upon returning home, sheriff John Darr hopes to provide services to help break the pattern and lead successful, lawful lives. “If they are not dealing with issues they may have, where are they going to go? They’re going to go to local county jails,” Darr said.

The prison holds 16 inmates and functions somewhat like a group home. The idea is that the incarcerated inmates can work through their troubles among peers, as they share experiences that others cannot understand. “Soldiers will find a way to link together,” said Roy Plummer,  a retired colonel who is joining the efforts.

“It’s really unique,” said Darr. “What we’re bringing together is a lot of resources.” The prison will partner with several organizations to offer extra assistance to the convicted veterans such as Veterans Court, which provides veterans with legal assistance; New Horizons, which offers counseling; a group that provides PTSD treatment; and the Plummer House, Roy Plummer’s organization, which finds housing for homeless veterans.

The need for this prison, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, is addressing a clear problem. Although wardens can speak anecdotally about the high numbers of veterans in their prisons, exact figures are unavailable due to a lack of recent research on this topic. However, in 2004, a report showed that nearly 140,000 veterans were being held in state and federal jails. That number is expected to be a serious lowball now that many more veterans have returned home. Additionally, that figure wholly disregards the inmates held in county jails, which probably dwarves the federal and state level prisons in comparison.

Following a series of theft and trespassing charges, veteran Wilbert Cox was sent to Georgia’s new facility. After 10 years of Army service, Cox says he is glad to receive extra help getting his life back on track. He particularly appreciates how much calmer of an environment the veterans’ prison is compared to the jail he was held in previously.

While the idea for the jail seems to come from a place of genuine concern, its mere existence also highlights a major issue that needs to be addressed. If we know that veterans are more likely to turn to a life of a crime, why not offer more support and intervene before it is necessary to arrest them?

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Photo Credit: The U.S. Army

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6:21AM PST on Feb 27, 2013

The military has kept some veterans long after their time of service is filled by extending their enlistment. This is similar to that.

3:28PM PST on Jan 9, 2013

He who would true valour see - let him come hither (John Bunyan)

12:31PM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

Prisons for the Vets. Prizes for the Politicians. Coffins for the dead. Medals for the heroes.

2:41PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

This sounds like FEMA concentration camps! Returning vets are a threat to those in government who are taking away our freedom/rights. Vets will defend the constitution and the American people against the evils of our corrupt government officials for passing unfair laws and such so, the government thinks the best way to deal with this threat is to put our protectors in prison! We have to fight against this!

11:21PM PDT on May 20, 2012

Yeah, "lock them in prison, where they belong.", that way they can learn how to be skilled criminals without the bother of treating the underlying problems.

Will R. - you must live in your own special universe where perfect people like yourself get to dish out judgement on the lower life forms (i.e. all others). Your ignorance is truly horrific as is your comfort with being Judge, jury, and executioner. I have to wonder if you are military or ex-military as it seems someone comfortable make sweepiing generalizations and condemnations would be perfect for the job.

More and more prisons as we privitize and make them "for-profit" enterprises. Of course you have to fill them up, so we have the endless "war on drugs", warrantless wiretaping, suspension of Habeus Corpus, etc....

Find yourself some help Will.

12:35PM PDT on May 12, 2012


12:01PM PDT on May 11, 2012

I think they should get help before ending up in jail. We do owe them that.

4:31AM PDT on May 11, 2012

When is killing a civilian not murder? When you're a soldier of course! Prosecute all volunteer soldiers!ex and current, lock them in prison, where they belong. Perverts.

8:23PM PDT on May 10, 2012

There needs to be a transition program for all who have served before they finish they are released from the service, no matter if they end their military career honorably or not. In addition there needs to be an open ended support system once they enter civilian life, and all of this needs to come with no stigma attached, no matter what services are needed, or for how long. Veterans, along with the rest of us have seen the social contract between the American people and their government forged since the New Deal steadily eroded in the last 20 years, and it must stop. The handing over of what should be ours to the uncaring corporations and the undeserving 1% must be reversed.

6:24PM PDT on May 10, 2012

@Catherine T.

I agree that other demographics need help as well, and in our puritanical lust for revenge and punishment in America, that doesn't happen often.

Having said that, though, there is an excellent case to be made for a separate system for veterans, just as there is (or should be) one for juveniles. I'm a veteran, myself, and I'm not sure that anyone who has not been in the military can fully appreciate the bonds that exist between servicemembers that are forged by common experience and common hardship. Servicemembers ARE different. They are used to discipline, and the things that combat vets have seen and experienced are far worse than anything even Sheriff Joe could dish out.

Like the one said, the quiet and order of the veterans jail was very different. These men (and women) were willing to give up their lives, and in some cases, it would have been easier than what they endured. I'm not a war vet, but my husband was in Vietnam, and it scarred him for life. I think we owe them a leg up. Whatever you think of the war is okay, but don't take it out on the vets.

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