Harris County expands program to help veterans in jail
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office officially dedicated a pair of cellblocks on its sixth floor to a program aimed to help troubled military veterans.
The program, called “Stars and Stripes,” launched in 2014. It’s geared toward military veterans locked up in the county’s jail. They are removed from general population and placed in one of two inmate tanks that can house up to 48 veterans at one time.
During their time in county lock-up, the veterans work with case workers trained to help veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. The military veterans work through a book that identifies triggers for emotions like anger, depression, sadness and frustration. Each veteran also receives a plan specific to their needs.
It includes resources to potential jobs once they are released from jail, information on community partnerships that aim to help military veterans, and places where veterans can go to continue their treatment for PTSD.
Stars and Stripes is the first program of its kind in the nation. It was expanded in 2016 when the Harris County Sheriff’s Office hired more case workers.
The goal is to grow the program even more, because not all veterans incarcerated by the county are in the program. Right now, there is not enough room or resources.
Staff report less than 10 percent of veterans who complete the Stars and Stripes program return to jail. A majority of the veterans are in jail due to crimes linked to drug or alcohol abuse. Counselors say the substance abuse is linked to PTSD and the veteran being unable to cope with their trauma in a healthy way.