In honor of Veterans Day, the Florida Department of Corrections is opening special dorms for veterans in five Florida prisons.
The veteran dorms have several features that are different from the regular dorms, including daily flag raising and retiring ceremonies, staff with military backgrounds and the requirement of military standards for clothing, bunks and dorm areas.
The use of profanity is prohibited in these areas and the inmates are encouraged to attend evening group meetings. They are also required to maintain good behavior and be disciplinary report-free.
To be eligible, the inmates must be verified veterans, within three years of their prison release dates, and must volunteer to live in the special quarters.
“We are always looking for creative ways to encourage the inmate population to make positive changes in their lives,” Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker said in a statement.
The inmate population is around 101,000 people in Florida. About 6,700 of those inmates have identified themselves as military veterans.
“The military emphasizes pride, character and integrity,” Tucker said. “By housing veteran inmates in the same dorm before their release from prison, they can work together to recapture some of those qualities, while also learning about programs and benefits available specifically for veterans.”
In addition to the special dorms, the correctional institutes offer specialized pre-release services for the inmate veterans to ease their re-entry into society and the workforce. These services include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder counseling and academic and vocational programs to prepare the men for re-entry into the workforce.
The Florida Department of Corrections said that their mission is “to protect the public by operating safe and secure prisons and to assist inmates and offenders with their re-entry into society. Inmates living in Veteran’s Dormitories will have an incentive to maintain their good behavior while in prison and will be more likely to live as law-abiding people upon release.”
The participating prisons are the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton, Gulf Correctional Institution in Wewahitchka, Martin Correctional Institution in Indianatown, Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell and Lowell Correctional Institution and Ocala.
About 300 inmates are currently participating in the program, which has room for 400 inmates and future expansion is possible.