Can Keeping Veterans Together In Prison Help Inmate Re-Entry?


Prisons are experimenting with ways to help veterans who have committed crimes and are serving time, NPR reports. At a state prison in Aberdeen, Wa., veterans are organized in a cell block like a military unit, complete with unit insignia and flag ceremonies. The idea is to build on the discipline they learned in the military to help prepare them for a return to the community. Prison supervisor Tera McElravy said the men’s shared military experience helps to foster a sense of responsibility.

One inmate says, “You came in here, and there were a whole bunch of guys … (trying) to help each other out.” Grouping inmates together makes it easier for the state to help them sign up for Veterans Administration benefits, services and job training. Skeptics question whether these programs in several states, including Pennsylvania, Florida and Colorado, will really prepare vets for when they’re back in the community. William Brown, a criminal justice professor at Western Oregon University and a veteran himself, says it makes sense that housing veterans together works well in prison. They’re already used to a formal, structured way of living. He says the real test of the program’s success will happen when the inmates are released, when being a veteran with a criminal record isn’t the norm.

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