Authorities hope they can better rehabilitate service members by housing them together in unit at Vista Jail
By Pauline RepardThe flags of the various branches of the military are posted above the TV set of the Vista Jail housing module for military veterans.
Vista — Early this month, 32 veterans in blue jail uniforms filed into a freshly painted, red, white and blue Vista Jail dormitory with walls brightened by patriotic murals.
They dropped their bags of belongings in double-bunk cells, then were officially welcomed to the Veterans Moving Forward program initiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
By housing the veterans together, authorities hope to encourage camaraderie while helping them kick drug habits, gain job skills, find housing and undergo treatment for mental illness — all factors that could keep them from returning to jail.
“The ultimate goal is transitioning them back to the community,” Sheriff Bill Gore said in an interview. “Veterans have given so much to this nation.”
Vista Jail Capt. Erika Frierson said the inmate veterans who moved into the special housing unit on Nov. 1 had applied for the privilege and agreed to take part in classes and programs that started the following Monday.
“They were so grateful,” Frierson said. “At the Friday ceremony, an inmate stood and thanked the Sheriff’s Department and the VA for putting this together. He got very emotional.”