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Jailed veterans find structure together

Much has been written about the phenomenon of veterans courts, designed to administer justice to former servicemembers who may have run afoul of the law. The idea is that military service, and the experiences that often go along with it, may create extenuating circumstances that necessitate special treatment.

Now The New York Times reports that Florida is among a handful of states that have taken it a step further, creating special dorms to house veterans, surrounding them with men of like backgrounds in an environment that adds military ritual to the existing prison structure.

“It’s re-instilling some of the values I once had that I hope to have again,” James R. White, 58, told the Times.

White served in the Marine Corps from 1974 to 1978, but has been jailed since 1996 for robbery. He is one of 85 men in the veterans dorm at Florida’s Sumter Correctional Institution.

At Sumter, the veterans rise early for formation, raising the flag in the morning and lowering it at the end of the day. They can receive counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and classes are available to prepare them for civilian life. Six months before a prisoner is released, he can meet with representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, who will help prepare him for the transition.

“We’ve come a long way in a few months,” Jeffrey P. Trovillion, the warden, told the Times. “It’s bringing back a sense of pride and discipline.”

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