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November 25, 2012

"Virginia prison groups veterans together for support"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new AP piece, which gets started this way:

A sergeant at arms, hazmat crew, and intelligence team working in uniform behind guarded gates and a barbed-wire fence isn't anything out of the ordinary in this region that's home to major military installations.  But the men chosen to perform those tasks a few miles from the North Carolina border are unusual.

Unlike their comrades who perform these duties on ships and bases, about 80 civilian prisoners are doing so as inmates at the medium-security Indian Creek Correctional Center.  Each served in the military before landing in prison, and state officials hope grouping them together to create a military environment will help change their lives and keep them from returning to prison.  About 2,000 of 30,000 inmates in the state prison system say they are veterans, though officials say there may be more.

The Virginia Department of Corrections opened two dormitories this summer exclusively for veterans — one at Indian Creek and another in Haynesville — where inmates have served in conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq.  Similar dorms have opened at several prisons in Florida, another state home to a large veteran population, as well as at a jail in Columbus, Ga., near Fort Benning.  The inmates receive therapy that addresses some problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anger issues or substance abuse problems that may have led to them winding up in prison.

Prison officials say these treatments help reduce recidivism among all inmates, but that grouping veterans together may be particularly effective.  "These offenders have a particular bond because of the service they did for their country, and what they learned when they were in the service, all the good things they learned in the service, all the discipline and structure, is morphed into this program so that those things can now be channeled positively to help them," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker.

November 25, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"The inmates receive therapy that addresses some problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anger issues or substance abuse problems that may have led to them winding up in prison."

Notice that no one winds up in prison because they want a fast buck.

It's hard to know whether this relentless criminals-as-victims narrative is born more of dishonesty or foolishness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 26, 2012 1:14:13 AM

C'mon, Bill, give our vets a little slack. As of earlier this year, U.S. vets were committing suicide at rate of one EVERY DAY. If you saw an article about that, I doubt you would say we just happened to recruit an army of manic depressives. War is hell. These guys get shot at and watch their friends get limbs blown off. Some come home and say they can't find anything that matches the rush of war. I don't find that hard to understand. I am not excusing criminal behavior, nor suggesting that vets not be punished, but I don't know that it's foolish or dishonest to think about how war affects vets' behavior. And if commiserating with other vets behind bars helps the process of rehabilitation, all the better for those who served and those who benefited from their service.

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Nov 26, 2012 9:32:10 AM

Thinkaboutit --

I'm more than willing to cut vets some slack, which is why I support the VFW and have backed eliminating federal income taxes on them. It is not supporting them, however -- and is instead demeaning them -- to treat them like helpless whiners and little children rather than like warriors.

The huge majority of vets do not turn to crime. What this tells me is that the minority who do wind up that way other than because of combat experience (which only a small minority of vets have).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 26, 2012 1:39:28 PM

otis - a clueless tool.

Posted by: vet | Nov 26, 2012 7:16:15 PM

vet --

You enlighten us all by posting what is, by your side's standards, a refined analysis.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 26, 2012 8:38:05 PM

I don't think allowing vets to live together in prison "demeans them" or rises to the level of "treating them like helpless whiners and little children."

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Nov 26, 2012 10:54:17 PM

Thinkaboutit --

Where are you getting that? I didn't say a word critical of allowing vets to live together in prison. The only sentence I referenced was this one, talking about the supposedly ever-present need for "therapy": "The inmates receive therapy that addresses some problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anger issues or substance abuse problems that may have led to them winding up in prison."

It's the assumed need for therapy -- and thus the portrayal of vets who have committed crimes merely as patients and victims -- that gave rise to my ironic observation that "no one winds up in prison because they want a fast buck."

If you want to dispute me on the basis of what I actually said, fine, we can discuss that. But simply making up a criticism I never asserted or implied doesn't much move the ball.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 26, 2012 11:57:41 PM

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