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Pinal County Jail Houses Veterans Together, Aims To Reduce Recidivism

The Pinal County jail veterans unit
(Photo courtesy of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office)
Inmates in the Pinal County jail veterans unit will bunk together and share in additional resources such as counseling and animal therapy.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office hopes a new program will reduce the likelihood veterans in their jail will commit new crimes.

Inmates who’ve served in the armed forces now have the option to bunk with fellow vets in a patriotically painted unit at the Pinal County jail. The wing is called the Housing Unit for Military Veterans, the acronym HUMV is a nod to the military vehicle.

“What I’ve seen here is kind of a relief on their faces,” Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said. “Immediately, they’re amongst people now that they have a common ground with them. They have a brotherhood with them and they can kind of help each other out.”

Lamb based the program on a similar one that’s shown promising results in Massachusetts.

“As a sheriff, my job is to reduce or eliminate crime and in this case we want to reduce recidivism and we want to keep people out of jail,” Lamb said.

Middlesex County established a Housing Unit for Military Veterans in January 2016. The Boston Globe reported the 119 vets that have been through the program have a lower recidivism rate than other inmates.

Vets in the unit will have access to additional counseling and therapy programs with dogs and horses. PCSO is working with Cenpatico and the Arizona and federal Departments of Veterans Affairs. The latter helps verify people's military status.

Lamb said veterans shared experiences can help make it easier to talk about issues such as post traumatic stress disorder.

“They can work through these problems together as a group.”

Lamb said the voluntary program is supported by the existing budget and so far serves about a half dozen inmates.

Maricopa County started housing veterans together in 2013.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.