Veterans at Maryland Correctional Training Center Learn About Services
03/27/2013
Herald-Mail - Online

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Deputy Secretary Richard Lane of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs spoke to incarcerated veterans at Maryland Correctional Training Center Wednesday about services available to them.

Various organizations made themselves available to the Incarcerated Veterans group that afternoon, meeting individually with the inmates.

“We have a very active veteran group here at MCTC,” said Barbara Allen, volunteer coordinator at MCTC.

“What we try to do on a quarterly basis is invite outside community initiative vendors to come in and speak with the veteran inmates about resources and programs available to them upon their release.”

VA Secretary Ed Chow was scheduled to speak but was called out of town, Mark Vernarelli, director of public information for Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said in an email.

Allen talked about preparing the inmates for being released from jail with programs such as Way Station of Frederick, Veterans Administration CAT 5 Program, Baltimore Station, and Hagerstown Veterans Service and Benefits Program, which had representatives at Wednesday's event.

“It's important for them to build relationships with the community before they go home,” she said. “We have case managers that specialize in re-entry purposes for the inmates so combined with their efforts and our community initiatives, we're better preparing the inmates for release to live in our neighborhoods.”

Vernarelli said in the email that there are many programs to assist incarcerated veterans within the department.

“The Department takes issues of incarcerated veterans seriously, and has a number of programs (including America's Vet Dog) to help them get connected to the community,” he said in an email Tuesday. “All three Hagerstown prisons have active incarcerated veterans groups run by staff who care about veterans' issues.”

Inmate Thomas Parham, 46, who served in the U.S. Air Force before his incarceration, said he was interested in services from a program at the Perry Point VA Medical Center that were introduced to him.

“It's a six-month program, and then it transitions to long-term housing, which is about two years,” he said. “They help you find jobs, and they work on helping you to reintegrate back into society with steady employment and housing and working with any issues that you may be dealing with.”

Parham added that such programs are important because without them many inmates could be left homeless or forced to commit a crime again when they are released.

“Once you leave this facility, for your major necessities that you need to get back on your feet, you need these programs,” he said. “ It's very important that we have these programs for veterans because without them, you could be stuck in a very difficult position.”

Incarcerated Veterans group meets one time a month on a Friday night and has an annual Veterans Day Ceremony, one fundraiser per year, outside speakers, and provides assistance and information to its members on benefits, rehabilitation programs, discharges, and employment.