More than 14 percent of Oregon’s prison population are veterans. Around the U.S., The Oregonian reports, veterans’ advocates are pushing such initiatives as veterans courts and veterans dockets to steer them into substance abuse treatment or other programs instead of prison. Several Oregon counties have set up such courts. If a veteran is convicted of a crime in a place where there is no specialty court, he goes to jail. Once in, he enters a caged new world where he may have some opportunities that other inmates don’t or may face exceptional challenges.
Some jurisdictions recognize the special situations that inmate-veterans encounter. Officials in Muscogee County, Ga., have announced the opening of a jail dormitory exclusively for inmate veterans, who can share their experiences and support in a way that civilian inmates can’t. At Oregon’s Snake River Correctional Institution, corrections officer Steve Farrow helps provide resources to the penitentiary’s “veterans club.” He helps put together packets with resource information for inmates about to be released, relays individual inmate queries to a county veterans service officer, and attends monthly meetings for veterans on the inside. He says it’s a rewarding way for him — a Navy veteran, active in the American Legion — to serve other veterans.
It’s just a fact of life that some veterans commit crimes when they come home, he said. “A lot of it is them coming out of the military and not having anything at home.”