YAPHANK - A new program at the Suffolk County Jail is aimed at helping incarcerated veterans turn their lives around.
The program at the Yaphank correctional facility features separate housing for veterans, and offers group therapy sessions on topics including post-traumatic stress disorder.
"A lot of the veterans that are incarcerated have mental health issues, such as PTSD, and when they came out of the armed services, they didn't get the help they needed before being integrated into society and they wound up in the criminal justice system," says Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.
The program started in June and currently has 15 inmates enrolled. The program can handle 30 at a time.
The ultimate goal is to make sure that once the inmates are done serving their time, they will never be behind bars again.
James Bert, who spent three years in the Army, says the program has provided tools for success while restoring pride once felt while serving the country. Bert is serving time for grand larceny after becoming involved with drugs following his discharge from the Army.
"As far as I'm concerned, I think it's a great thing," says Bert. "There's just a certain respect that we all look at each other with."
Sheriff DeMarco says counseling the veterans receive is volunteer-based and is at no cost to the taxpayers. He says the Suffolk program is the only of its kind in the state.