GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Florida. – A new program inside the Clay County Jail is helping veterans who are now in custody acquire the skills they need to re-enter society.
News4Jax entered the prison on Tuesday to see the new unit designed for US veterans.
Prison staff started the program for veterans who have committed crimes and are incarcerated in Clay County. The program equips inmates with the skills they need to re-enter society so that they never return to prison.
“One of the key things is to recognize the fact that some of us have addiction issues as well as mental illnesses, and until some of those issues are resolved this will be a recurring door for some inmates. Said Stavien Count Army veterinarian who is behind bars on a battery charge.
Count is in the veterans unit, away from the rest of the prison population and distractions.
“With the programs that they have in place so far, I think there are things and tools that we gain by going to these different classes that help us deal with outside situations,” said Count.
He believes the new program will prevent him from returning to prison.
“I want to change for myself. I can’t change for my wife. I cannot change for my children. I must want to change for myself. Then you start digging through that closet, and you have to clean up some of those skeletons, but the programs they’ve put in place help you do that, ”Count said. “I think once they get enough feedback from us and enough help from outside sources, this program can really do veterans a lot of good and keep us from making the same mistakes and coming back.
Clay County Sheriff’s Office management believes the program honors veterans and reduces crime in the long run.
“We are constantly looking for different ways to get as many of the inmates as they are willing to give us, so that we can give them tools that when they come back into society they don’t want to re-offend.” said Director of Detention Chris Coldiron, a Navy veteran. “So here the idea is that everyone is together. You can tell stories about what you did in the military. You benefit from the camaraderie of everyone who is here.
Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook is considering forming relationships to push incarcerated inmates to be successful on the outside.
“Ideally, with this program and the relationships we build in this dormitory, we can prevent people from coming back, from being incarcerated,” Cook said.
But not all veterans come in.
“We are working to identify who the veterans are. We are looking for their exit types and statuses and we want them to apply. We want it to be something you have to work on, ”said Coldiron.
So far, the program has graduated two inmates who have been released, and these former inmates have not reoffended.
Currently there are eight inmates in the program, but the sheriff’s office is looking to grow it well beyond that number.
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