In the eyes of the law, the three dozen men are burglars, drug dealers, even murderers.
At one time, before they pulled on the drab brown outfits issued to an inmate, they wore the crisp uniform of soldiers and Marines, sailors, and airmen. In Green Unit K, pod B, every convict is a veteran. The men largely police themselves, fashioning their prison time after the disciplined lifestyle they learned in the military. They sit on a steering committee, organize their own clean-up schedule and counsel each other through the paralyzing episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder. At last count, the state’s prisons housed 1,944 military veterans, five percent of the population behind bars. Many of those inmates saw combat overseas. Many also have been diagnosed with PTSD and, to the best of the state’s knowledge, few of them received any treatment for it on the outside. The program at Maury started with a group therapy session among roughly 10 men, many of whom shared the same combat-related mental health issues and found a forum to talk about experiences that still haunted them.