Florence, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has opened a unit at the detention center for inmates who are veterans.
Inmates booked in the jail who have their status verified through Veterans Affairs has the option to enter the program, PCSO officials say.
The unit opened last week and is formally called the Housing Unit for Military Veterans or HUMV. It can house up to 50 inmates.
There are American flags and other military symbols painted in the unit. Deputy Chief Matthew Hedrick with the Pinal County Adult Detention Center says he wants to give inmates a message of hope, but it goes beyond what's on the walls.
Hedrick says inmates will be connected to mentors and other services through the VA. They want to give inmates the skill sets they need to succeed once released.
"Every human being on this planet needs help to succeed and we want to put them in a position to where they're able to ask for help," Hedrick said.
There are also plans for therapy dogs, horses and a mentorship program.
PCSO modeled the unit after a program in the Middlesex Sheriff's Office in Massachusetts that has seen positive results and a reduction in recidivism rates of veterans.
“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,” said Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in a press released. “And if I can make sure our veterans get that help they do not come back to my jail, then that is a good thing for our county and our country."
Sex offenders or those in the maximum security facility are not eligible for housing in the veterans unit.
There are an average of 500 inmates in the jail, Hedrick said. Between 15 and 20 inmates may be veterans Hedrick said. While the goal is to reduce recidivism rates among all inmates, Hedrick says they can't do it all at once.
Hedrick says there are other jails throughout the state have similar veterans programs.
PCSO is also partnering with Cenpatico, the Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.