Today, the Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office is opening a new veterans unit at its Adult Detention Facility. Now, any individual who is booked into the facility will get their veterans status verified through Veterans Affairs. If they are a veteran, they can opt to join the veterans unit, the Housing Unit for Military Veterans (HUMV).
The HUMV will house veterans from different branches of the military. These inmates will have access to mentors, councilors and educational opportunities to help them once they are released. The mentorship program continues once veterans are released to ensure they get the services they need, PCSO says.
PCSO’s program is modeled after the HUMV program created by Middlesex County, MA, Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. The Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office launched its program in January 2016, and it is open to both pretrial and sentenced inmates who have served at home or abroad. The Middlesex County program is situated in a unit reminiscent of a military barracks and features programming specific to the needs of military veterans. The results have been extremely positive, dramatically reducing recidivism rates of veterans. Since its inception 165 individuals have gone through the unit. Amongst the 111 men who spent a minimum of 30 days in HUMV, the reconviction rate is in the single digits.
“I saw this program featured on the news and I immediately wanted to have it implemented in our facility. Veterans have sacrificed a lot for our country and while they have made some mistakes, they do deserve to get the help they need. And if I can make sure our veterans get that help and they do not come back to my jail, then that is a good thing for our county and our country,” said Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.
“HUMV is our attempt to help veterans in our custody use their common bonds to address the issues which led to their involvement with the justice system and return them to a better path,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “I’m honored Sheriff Lamb would choose our program to model his initiative after and look forward to continuing to collaborate on our shared efforts to help those who have served our country.”
PCSO’s HUMV program is partnering with Cenpatico, the Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help create programs.
“The Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services is happy to partner with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office for the opportunity to reach veterans at a critical moment and provide them professional benefits counseling in an effort to reduce recidivism among veterans,” said John Scott, assistant deputy director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services.
PCSO is also partnering with Battle Buddies, a program that uses therapy dogs to help veterans suffering from PTSD. Volunteers will also bring therapy horses down to the facility as an additional options available to our veterans.