Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Veterans Day

First off, apologies for the lack of update yesterday. My monitor- a box monitor- decided it wanted to do this thing where the picture would briefly cut out, like a TV being turned on and off real fast, and make this sound like a fuse blowing. This basically meant I needed to go buy a new monitor. That took up enough of the day to where it wasn't really worth trying.


Today is Veterans Day, and today you're going to be reminded, more than usual at least, of all the difficulties that veterans face after they come home from active duty, and the challenged they face re-integrating into society. You've (hopefully) had it told to you quite a bit over the past week in the runup to today, actually.

You have also heard, I'm sure, about how difficult it is for ex-convicts to re-integrate as well, as even after their release, after they have supposedly 'paid their debt to society', society decides to start collecting interest on that debt. There are often so many roadblocks to rehabilitation that many ex-cons, even those who want to rehabilitate, ultimately feel they have little choice but to go back to a life of crime as a matter of simple survival. But there's a lot less sympathy for them, to say the least.

But what about when the ex-cons are veterans?

As far as re-integration goes, this is a double whammy. Take two worlds that have been proven as very difficult to come back from without a good support structure, put someone in both of them, and the task goes from daunting to almost Herculean.

Enter the Florida Department of Corrections, where veterans comprise 6.6% of the population. The FDC has recently introduced a program where a few hundred veteran inmates- currently 300, with a capacity of 400- are placed into separate wings. In these wings, the FDC intends to reinstall military values in the inmates, who must have three or fewer years left on their sentences to qualify for placement. They also must have been honorably discharged, and have a clean record during their stay in prison.

The cell doors are painted with a giant American flag. Further murals depict fighter jets and the Iwo Jima Memorial. 'Taps' is played daily. There are daily flag-raising and flag-lowering ceremonies.

That's for aesthetic value, anyway. More structurally, those participating will be expected to uphold military standards in the dorms, refrain from swearing or using racial slurs, and attend group meetings that teach better decision making, as well as maintaining good conduct. In return for upholding those standards, standards higher than in general population, they'll be provided with a number of services such as PTSD counseling and better access to and assistance with Veterans Affairs benefits.

In addition, the setup itself places the inmates among other veterans, people that they were once trained to fight alongside, and it's hoped that this will create a sense of brotherhood in the dorms. The whole idea is to remind them of what they once were, what they represented and even behind bars continue to represent, and what they can, if they work at it, make themselves into again.

Purely pragmatically, every veteran inmate that gets rehabilitated enough to stay out of prison is one more person that doesn't walk back in the door, and every one that doesn't is that much more money saved by the state.

But in a more humanistic sense, it's a support structure, and a second chance given to those who, otherwise, might never be able to find it.

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