- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Douglas County jail in Omaha has a new prisoner unit to house military veterans, the first of its kind in Nebraska and one of several in jails nationwide.

The Douglas County Department of Corrections unit, which houses 25 to 30 men, opened about three months ago, The Omaha World-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1KSG8d0 ) Saturday.

The special unit is based on the idea that many crimes committed by veterans are related to things that happened to them in the military.

“People who went down-range, they saw things, they have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), they are back, they self-medicate, and they get in trouble,” said Mick Wagoner, a lawyer with the Veterans Support Legal Network.

The unit is open to all male military veterans except for the most dangerous, predatory or disruptive people. People facing murder charges aren’t eligible, nor are those with chronic behavior problems in jail.

Jail officials say there are not enough women veterans in the jail for a separate female veterans housing unit. The jail can’t house women and men together, said Michael Myers, the county’s community corrections director. But he said the jail offers the same services to women veterans that are offered to men.

Those services include help with everything from addiction and mental health issues to exploring military discharge upgrades, education, housing and employment preparation.

A day in the veterans unit begins with it a reveille and roll call and a trip to a small gym for a series of exercises. Afterward, they return to their unit for breakfast and then the Pledge of Allegiance.

After their morning routine, the men meet in groups or one-on-one with counselors and advisers and have support group meetings.

The unit is already exceeding the expectations of jail staff.

Justine Wall, the department’s in-house program coordinator, said he’s never seen a prison unit operate the way the veterans unit does, “where everybody looks out for each other, everybody takes care of each other.”


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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