January 30, 2023
Veterans Treatment Court Visits Union Correctional Institution
Union CI's Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter (VVA) mentors troubled veterans.
RAIFORD, Fla. — The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) welcomed Jacksonville Veterans Treatment Court (JVTC) to Union CI. The group pairs at-risk veterans, with inmate-veterans who serve as mentors. The JVTC was established to address the unique needs of veterans with service-related mental illness and/or substance use issues who have had an interaction with the law resulting in an arrest.
"The JVTC program gives veterans behind bars an opportunity to give back by sharing their stories. The mentors explain to them, if they don't make changes to their lives, they will end up in prison just like them. There has been a significant improvement in our participant's performance in JVTC, so it benefits both sides," said Duval County Court Judge Mose Floyd, "I am honored to be here to witness firsthand how the mentorship we provide to veterans in our program reduces crime by guiding them in the right direction."
"This is my second time visiting with the veterans at Union Correctional Institution, said Troy, a participant in the program, "The first time I went, I was in a dark place. The fact that they have the same military background, they've been where I am, and they share their stories with me made me realize that they really care about me and want to help me make the right choices for my family and myself. My success story is a result of these guys, and I'm looking forward to graduating in July."
"The inmates serve as mentors for these participants, exposing them to the pitfalls of continuing down their negative paths, such as not seeing family or living a fulfilling life," said Assistant Warden Kevin Tomlinson, "I feel this program explains the reality of what it's like to lose the freedoms that we all tend to take for granted."
JVTC is dedicated to helping veterans whose past military experiences and adverse law enforcement involvement have impeded their pursuit of wellness. This event gave all involved a safe and judgment-free environment to socialize with each other, discuss their past experiences, share coping skills and offer guidance and support. JVTC has partnered with Union CI's Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter (VVA) for the past 10 years, proving these events successful rehabilitation tools. The camaraderie that occurs when veterans assist other veterans is the cornerstone of JVTC.
As Florida's largest state agency, and the third largest state prison system in the country, FDC employs 24,000 members, incarcerates 80,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.