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This New Program Helps Veteran Inmates At Harris County Jail

The men participating in the program live in a shared cellblock and have access to education services related to substance abuse, life-skills and mental illness.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has opened a new section of the county jail dedicated to military veterans, with the aim of helping them prepare for civilian life. 

The cellblock is part of a new veteran-focused program called Brothers in Arms, and is located at the Harris County Jail’s new Joint Processing Center.

Earlier this year, the jail identified over 300 veteran inmates, most of whom were not receiving mental healthcare or participating in veteran-specific programs, according to Heide Laser, the case manager in charge of Brothers in Arms.

In addition to a shared cellblock with inspirational quotes and military-inspired murals on the walls, the men participating in the program have access to education services related to substance abuse, life-skills and mental illness. The program also works with the Veterans Service Office. 

“These veterans are learning about things they had no idea they were entitled to because of their service in the military,” Laser said. “We wanted to open up additional housing without regard to what their charges are, without regard to whatever their charges are, without regard to whatever their discharge was in the military just to educate them.”

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke to inmates at the kick-off of the program and encouraged them to take advantage of the services offered to them.

“We want to make sure that we work together to get you the support that you need,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t judge, we simply understand, through our experiences, that sometimes people fall on hard times.”

Inmates in the program enter voluntarily and live in a cell block with other veterans. Laser says this fosters a sense of community among the men.

She said the goal was to, “have them all in one place and bring the resources to them.”

The county doesn’t have a similar program for women, saying that there are not enough female veterans in the jail.

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