The Monroe County Jail outside of Rochester, NY has a special veterans’ housing unit and is one of about 80 different pods across the country. Rochester’s opened in September and the goal is to put the veterans in a different setting where they are more likely to feel in a military setting. That is hoped to appeal to a time in their lives when they served and were part of something bigger than themselves.
In most cases, the plan is working, recidivism is way down in veterans who are placed in the program. They wear brown jumpsuits rather than the normal orange and seems to be a positive step.
One two-story unit within the Monroe County Jail in Rochester isn’t your typical jail pod.
Some inmates do yoga to combat anger, others participate in art therapy classes, and others take part in chemical dependency courses.
Inside are two dozen veterans, ranging from their 20s to 60s, dressed in brown jumpsuits. Each man jailed here served in the United States military.
- Since its inception, about 120 veterans have lived in the unit
- There are currently 20 veterans housed in the 53-person jail pod
- The goal is to connect the men with support services they can continue to utilize once released from jail.
- Years of military service and discharge status aren’t important. Inmates who served even a day are eligible to live in the unit.
“Of Monroe County Jail’s 1,100 inmates, we look for ways to change lives for the better,” said current Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter. “Through this program, we are saving and changing lives.”
Put veterans with other veterans and they’re more likely to be successful as the camaraderie the unit provides is significant, said Nick Stefanovic, director of the Monroe County Veterans Service Agency.
“The goal of the program is to stop that revolving door and we do that through the services we offer the pod, which is the most effective point in the criminal justice system to intervene,” Stefanovic said. “The amount, type and quality of those programs will make it or break it.”
For many incarcerated veterans, their jail terms are a consequence of their military service. Coping with PTSD, combat injuries and the like, many self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and sent them on a downward spiral. This program and others like it are a step in the right direction.
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Photo: Rochester Democrat