New York Dept. of Corrections Unveils Housing Area on Rikers Island Exclusively For Military Veterans

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Veterans in custody will be paired with enrichment programs and re-entry services aimed at their specific needs; work with specialized staff that also has military experience / NEWS RELEASE

NEW YORK— The de Blasio Administration announced today the unveiling of a new, groundbreaking housing unit on Rikers Island that will work exclusively with those in custody who have served our country in the military.

The Department of Correction opened the first ever housing area dedicated to military veterans on Feb. 20. The Veterans Unit at the Anna M. Kross Center (AMKC) will offer those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces a series of enrichment programs tailor-made to their history of service. Those programs will include work with correction officers and counselors with military experience, as well as collaboration with the New York City Department of Veterans Services and other veterans groups. The ultimate goal is to offer a comprehensive reentry plan designed around their shared experience of serving the United States.

“The Department is proud to recognize veterans in our custody with this special unit,” said DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann. “These are individuals who served our country and deserve a housing area dedicated to their specific needs as they move forward in their lives. DOC will provide opportunities for these servicemen and make sure they receive respect and dedicated assistance.”

The unit will be outfitted with emblems of the U.S. Armed Forces and will be staffed by correction officers with military experience. A social worker from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will visit the unit each week. A correctional counselor with military experience has also been selected to offer guidance to the participants. Such community based organizations as the Samaritan Village, Bronx Veterans Court Mentors, the New York City Department of Veterans Services and the New York Public Library will also help in the implementation of a comprehensive reentry plan for these individuals. The unit will have a 50-bed capacity and will be designed in a dormitory-style layout to foster camaraderie.

The occupants will consist of self-reported veterans who are interested in joining the unit. The New York City Department of Veterans Services will confirm prior military experience. Once moved to the unit, participants will undergo an orientation and complete a questionnaire in order to develop a targeted programming and reentry plan.

New York City Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General (ret.), US Army, remarked, “Veterans share a unique bond that serves as a foundation for what can be a transformational social support network. The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services applauds the Department of Correction for dedicating this housing area devoted to veterans and tailoring programs and services to their particular strengths and challenges. We look forward to working together on this historic endeavor.”

“I am so proud of the officers who are working in this housing area,” said DOC Chief of Department Hazel Jennings. “These men and women come to work every day with the single purpose of keeping our jails safe. Now, using their deep reservoir of experience as military veterans, they can further work toward that goal with a population that also shares with them service to this country.”

“This is a specialized, pioneering unit for an underserved group that will both honor those who have served and provide them with a menu of options to help prepare them for reentry into the community,” said DOC Senior Deputy Commissioner Timothy Farrell.

Added DOC Acting Deputy Commissioner for Adult Programming and Community Relationships Michael Tausek, “We felt it was important to place these individuals together in a support-group type setting so they can lean on each other and use their shared experiences to help them build on their already impressive accomplishments going forward.”

“The benefits of having those who have served together in one housing area, sharing experiences and helping one another plan for the future cannot be minimized,” said Dr. Nichole Adams-Flores, the DOC Deputy Commissioner of Health Affairs. “The bonding and camaraderie expected to occur will be helpful in producing positive outlooks and a group mindset that together, they can overcome any obstacles that may lie ahead. They will have each other’s backs as they move forward.”

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