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Texas Connects Us to Veterans and How a Collin County Justice Program Helps Veterans

At the Collin County Jail, there is a program dedicated to giving military veterans who got into trouble with the law, a hand up to succeed in civilian life.

"My deputies constantly see and law enforcement across the United States encounter veterans who are self-medicating because they found themselves in a situation where they're trying to ease the pain," said Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner, who says P.T.S.D, trauma, and anger issues stemming from military experiences can leave some veterans struggling to cope on their own. "But when we see a group of veterans together we know they do much better together."

That's why Sheriff Skinner and Collin County Veterans Court Judge John Roach Jr. started the V.A.L.O.R. (Veterans Accessing Long-term Opportunities for Rehabilitation), a first-of-its-kind program for incarcerated veterans.

V.A.L.O.R. puts veterans who are serving jail sentences together in a dedicated pod. The walls are decorated military emblems; reminders of their service. Their days are regimented, like the military, to increase self-accountability. The program includes therapy and reintegration training to help veterans succeed in the civilian world.

"Well, we both served," Sheriff Skinner said. "The fact of the matter is as veterans, we both know and we were taught from the very beginning, you don't leave a brother or sister behind."

"What we're really trying to capitalize on is that bond that they have, so they can be successful together like they're used to doing in the military," explained Judge Roach. "I want to repay the blank check that they wrote to our country, and I want to do it with some interest."

In Judge Roach's Veterans Court, inmates wearing blue and white stripes with V.A.L.O.R. stand out. Not all veterans qualify. They have to be non-violent offenders.

"You're the face of V.A.L.O.R.," Roach said to one inmate, explaining that Veteran's Court requires more work and effort than traditional court. "I told you if you wanted to do it the Air Force way, go down the hallway and do it the easy way, didn't I," joked Judge Roach, a former Marine. "But if you wanted to do it the hard way, then you come in this court and do what you're supposed to do."

"They regular system has failed these veterans," said Roach. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not excusing what the veterans do to get in the system, but once they're in the system, we owe it to them to get them the resources they need to come out of it."

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