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may/june 2009

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As the 2009 National Convention approaches, VIC finds itself engaged in several areas of concern. Of particular interest is the VICTRI (Veterans Initiatives Center and Research Institute) Day on the Hill (DOH) Campaign. Tentatively scheduled for the week before the Convention in Louisville (July 16 and 17), this event attempts to accomplish two missions.

First and perhaps foremost is a Day on the Hill for the families, friends, and supporters of incarcerated and justice-challenged veterans to bring to the national stage the impact war trauma has on veterans as they readjust to civilian life. Second, it is an attempt to gain support for a congressional resolution on the plight of veterans who often face an unsympathetic and relentless criminal justice system interested only in incarceration and punishment. The DOH emphasizes the need for social justice, not criminal justice, for veterans.

The VIC column continues to generate a steady flow of letters. Please be assured that each is read, but I am hard pressed to respond to them all. VVA has limited resources to help veterans in legal matters or issues involving VA benefit claims. Prisoners who have trouble receiving The VVA Veteran should address their circulation issues directly to the Membership Department. AVVA members—incarcerated or otherwise—will no longer receive The Veteran. Membership in VVA still requires a copy of a DD-214 and a clearly legible prison return address.

The correspondence I receive is gratifying, and I look forward to reading all of it. I sympathize with many of the issues and concerns of incarcerated veterans. What has become very apparent in this correspondence is the great variety of incarcerated veteran groups and organizations that are working in prisons independently of one another and with minimal assistance from VVA.

I am very interested in hearing from all incarcerated veteran organizations. If your prison has a VSO, please write to VIC and provide information on your group activities and organization, as well as its history and its contribution to your yard. Who are your supporters and sponsors? Be assured that VIC will try to contact your organization and convince prison administrators that incarcerated veteran organizations are a stable and productive cultural element to the prison community that needs support.

The recognition and acceptance of incarcerated VSOs is an important step in the rehabilitative process in our prisons. Incarcerated veteran organizations are a valuable commodity. They should be nurtured and promoted by conscientious prison administrators. Incarcerated veterans’ groups reflect racial and ethnic cooperation, which provides stability in the convict population. Incarcerated veterans are mentors and role models for younger prisoners. When supported by staff sponsors and outside volunteers, they can create a more humane correctional atmosphere.

This was the message that was presented at the National Commission on Correctional Health Care Conference in Las Vegas in early April by my friend and colleague, Mary Harrison, and myself in our presentation, “True Grit: An Innovative Humanistic Living Program for Geriatric Prisoners.” This program is very closely intertwined with VVA Incarcerated Chapter 719, The Rock Pile, at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center.



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