What does veteran-specific programming look like? Barracks Behind Bars II: In Veteran-Specific Housing Units, Veterans Helping Veterans Help Themselves (Prison) presents a variety of options. Written in plain language, the book shows you through real-world examples how to create innovative, veterans programs unique to your own system. However, regardless of where you go across the country to see veteran-specific programming, there are some similarities. Successful programs are those that include leadership buy-in, community partnerships, volunteer involvement, and collaboration with inmates and/or formerly incarcerated individuals.
Sometimes these programs take on an unexpected character. So it is with the Brigadoon Dog Program, where inmate veterans train dogs to be of service to veterans in the community who are in need.
Dan Simmons, who once worked as a dog handler while in the Air Force, now trains dogs as he serves time at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center in Washington State. Working with dogs since his incarceration has helped Simmons learn more about the power of positive reinforcement and behavior change. By setting short and long-term goals for the dogs he trains, Simmons has also learned how to set goals for himself.
“What it’s done,” Simmons says, “is [remind] me that there was a time in my life that I wasn’t…aware that you needed to set goals and stick to those short-term goals and long-term goals to see them through. It would be fulfilling [to complete goals]. It would be more rewarding, and it would keep you out of trouble. That’s the key here.”
Simmons also feels good knowing that he’s helping other veterans.
Barracks Behind Bars II features a number of innovative approaches to working with veterans, from the Brigadoon Dog Program that was highlighted here to writing programs, work camps, and a program specifically for incarcerated women veterans at the Washington State Corrections Center for Women.
Listen to Simmons describe his handling of a special dog in the Brigadoon program. Then download Barracks Behind Bars II for more ideas and considerations for how to bring programs like these to your own area.
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