A new way to help veterans in prison is being tried in Connecticut.
A special unit has been created at Willard-Cybulski Correctional in Enfield to house veterans and provide a number of support services.
The special veterans unit started just last month. The hope is by housing veterans together, they will have a better sense of belonging and more positive about their future.
"I am at a really rough part of my life,” inmate Adam Lincoln said.
Lincoln has been in prison since April. He was sentenced to three and a half years for driving drunk and killing a friend in a crash in South Windsor.
While he said these are the worst of times, Lincoln said he remembers the best times when he was in the United States Army in Iraq and then the Reserves.
"I was getting really good assistance on the outside before I was sentenced from the VA as far as mental health, therapy, all that,” Lincoln said. “And coming in here there was nothing."
But, all these inmates, who are veterans, are now getting more help. The unit is expected to provide the inmates with the following services:
Gov. Dannel Malloy got a tour of the new unit and a chance to hear from some of the 700 veterans serving time in Connecticut. There are 16,019 incarcerated in Connecticut.
"We want to look at the best practices in other states and other countries that have different attitudes about this kind of thing,” Malloy said.
The unit, which will hold 110 veteran inmates, is an attempt to bring veterans together because their military service gave them structure and purpose.
"We've all been through the same thing,” inmate Robert Smith said. “We've been through training. There is a mutual respect."
Smith, who also served in the United States Army, is serving 5 years for selling drugs. One of things Smith said he feels was missing from his life up until now was help and support.
"This program is the first time I've seen people getting ready to be released actually looking forward to something,” Smith said. “They got a lot of classes going on."
The announcement of the new veterans' unit comes after Malloy's Second Chance Society reforms where he discussed raising the age of juveniles in the criminal court system.
Even though the unit is new, veterans told Eyewitness News that being together makes them more positive and gives them more hope.
Connecticut Department of Correction, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USVA), the Connecticut Department of Labor, Connecticut Vet Centers will all work with the new veterans’ unit.
“There is real synergy surrounding the criminal justice reform efforts across the state and across our nation. The Veterans’ Unit is yet another example of how the Department of Correction can be part of the solution. Reentry is complicated and requires that we all play an active role to reduce recidivism,” DOC Commissioner Scott Semple said.
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