Sheriff says ‘Soldier On’ program successfully lowered recidivism rates in veterans

Veterans Voices

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Sometimes veterans who are struggling with inner demons end up behind bars. A program helping incarcerated vets is now being hailed as a success.

“Were not bad people. We did stupid things. We made poor choices,” Gulf War veteran Mark said his past poor choices that go all the way back to the 1990s. “I used drugs later in life. That was a coping mechanism. I had successes and failures.”

The Army vet was arrested in October after a probation violation. He’s getting help and support thanks to the Albany County Jail’s Soldier On Program.

Back in April of 2015, News10’s Anya Tucker and photographer Ric Easton visited the special pod within the Albany County Jail for non-violent veteran offenders when the not-for-profit organization first began offering support groups and addiction recovery programs at the facility. Soldier On also offers housing and job opportunities for veterans after they’ve been released.

At the time, the pod was full of veterans. Roughly 300 plus incarcerated veterans have gone through the program in Albany County. “Today I sit here with 3 [inmates],” Sheriff Craig Apple said.

So few, that the Soldier On inmates now share the pod with other non-violent inmates. Sheriff Apple says typical recidivism rates at the jail are around 40 percent. But for Soldier On participants, it’s now down to around seven percent.

“Seven percent’s not bad. Jail is for bad people. A lot of these people that are down here below us are not bad people.”

Unfortunately, Mark is among that seven percent who do return. However, he has re-committed himself to the program and is even training shelter dogs for future adoption.

“Things happen for a reason. You know, there’s a plan for all of us and I think that’s why I’m here. And I have to accept that- I have to believe that.”

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