By Jamie Leary
GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4)– Jefferson County is now the second in the state to implement a veterans housing unit in its detention facility.
While it is a first for Jefferson County, veterans units have been implemented in other states and successfully proven to reduce the number of repeat offenders.
El Paso County is the only other county in the state to implement a veterans housing unit. A 2013 study showed a 38 percent recidivism rate in that unit, compared to a national average of 68 percent.
“It falls in line with the concept that often is known in the military of leave no brother behind and that’s what this is about. If we can help somebody to not be left behind after they’ve stumbled a bit, maybe that could be a way we could help some folks,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader.
At any given time there are between 28 and 41 veterans in the Jefferson County Detention Facility. The veterans unit has the capability to house up to 32. It looks much the same as the other units, aside from one noticeable difference. While other cells are locked, the inmates in the Veterans Unit are free to roam and talk with each other.
It does not come without its fair share of work. The inmates are required to take anger management, life skills and other classes.
“It’s a requirement to come into this program. If you’re not willing to do it then you’re not accepted,” said inmate Randy Gibson and 9-year-veteran of the Army National Guard.
“From the schedule that they’re going to give us that I’ve seen, we’re going to be doing a lot of work,” said inmate Dale Murphy who worked for the 133rd Ordnance Detachment.
Many of the inmates are homeless.
“I just kind of gave up, got into drugs and ended up out on the streets from there,” said inmate Shaun Ross who served with the Army National Guard for eight years.
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The Sheriff’s Office says a lot of problems are due to a difficult transition out of a life of service.
“After serving in those kinds of condition and that type of family and they leave the service, there’s a huge vacuum and unfortunately some lose their way,” said Colonel Don Davis with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s a lot on you to go through that and coming back to civilian life, it’s not the same,” said Ross.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said it will study the success of the program with the goal of reducing recidivism and that it is invested in the program for the long haul.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.