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Georgia jail's 'Barracks' aims to help incarcerated veterans with extra resources

25 Nov 2019

A new housing unit within the Gwinnett County Jail in Georgia is aiming to provide military-veteran inmates with additional resources to help them transition back into society upon their release.

The 70-bed unit known as "The Barracks," a specialized therapeutic program northeast of Atlanta, has aimed to give both violent and non-violent offenders a second chance at life.

Sheriff Butch Conway said the project was inspired by the belief that it could awaken the values learned through military service, according to a release by the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office.

"Our goal is to help reconnect these inmates to the time in their lives when they made better decisions, respected authority and obeyed the law. This program has the potential to greatly influence these inmates and help them lead more productive lives when they’re released from custody," he said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has affected 20 percent of Iraq veterans, 12 percent of gulf war veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam veterans in a given year, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The Barracks has aimed to address the trauma associated with serving, sheriff's office spokeswoman Shannon Volkodav said.

"The Barracks program provides classes to address [the] trauma associated with military service, drug abuse, and behavioral therapy," Volkodav said. "The Barracks will maintain a regimented schedule which includes daily room inspections and military-style physical fitness training. Military veterans have previously demonstrated their ability to lead a life of discipline, respect authority and follow orders, which we believe will be instrumental to the program’s success."

Roughly seven percent of the 2.3 million people behind bars have served in the military, according to a paper titled "Barracks Behind Bars" which mirrored "The Barracks" and was sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections.

Its studies found 77 percent of incarcerated veterans received honorable discharges and were affected when transitioning back to civilian life.

"By housing veterans together in an environment that inspires military culture, values, and a sense of brotherhood or sisterhood, these units are not only promoting safety improvements, but also restoration, healing, and growth in a way that may not have been possible via general population housing," the paper concluded.