Photo Courtesy/Lincoln Journal Star
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) A special unit at the Nebraska State Penitentiary houses men who once served in the military and are trying to find a way back to their core values.
The Veterans Service Group began in December 2016 with 40 beds, the Lincoln Journal Star reported . Officials hoped that putting like-minded people with similar experiences and training in a unit together would create a positive environment.
“The goal is to improve the culture of NSP and (the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services), but also when the people leave here and go back into the community, they are a better person,” said Caleb Larson, Veterans unit manager.
Inmates in the unit must prove verified military service with an honorable discharge, have no misconduct reports in the last six months and agree to participate in veterans programs.
Many of the men deal with post-traumatic stress and depression or have turned to alcohol and drugs. The unit emphasizes the military values of honor, respect and truth to help them recover.
Many of the men struggle with the stigma of being an inmate, Larson said.
“That label is strong. As soon as they are labeled an inmate, they are in a new world,” Larson said. “It’s therapeutic to be put into an environment where they might be able to shake that label for at least part of the day.”
The goal is to use self-reflection to learn more about themselves, but also look outward at how they’ll function in society once they leave, said Brent Springer, one of the youngest in the unit.
The 29-year-old Marine said the older veterans who’ve been through what he’s experiencing have helped him reconnect with the values he learned while in the military.
“When you find that person again, then you’re on the road to recovery,” said Steven Gillispie, a 72-year-old Navy veteran.
Veterans make up about 8 percent of the Nebraska prison population.