PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island state agencies are working together to help incarcerated veterans who will soon be released.
Director of Veterans Affairs Kasim Yarn says he’s in sync with Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s goal to give everyone a chance to make it in the state.
So, Yarn started working on ways Rhode Island could improve how it helps incarcerated veterans transition after their release. He brought together state agencies that offer veterans services so they could coordinate with one another instead of agencies reaching out individually to veterans.
The group of agencies started meeting this summer and plan to meet monthly. About 80 veterans are currently incarcerated in Rhode Island. About 20 will be released within the next year and a half.
“This is a population that deserves a chance as well,” Yarn said. “As the governor has said, when you’ve paid your debt to society, we need to provide you better avenues to make it.”
The group discusses housing, employment and health care options for each veteran. It also goes over what additional support services each veteran is eligible for and what other programs will be needed, such as transportation, job training, education or the state’s Veterans Treatment Court.
J.R. Ventura, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, said the department is proud to work with Yarn to ensure veterans receive the services they deserve.
“We are committed to addressing their unique challenges and providing for their reintegration needs,” Ventura said in a statement last week.
Yarn said he tailored the program based on efforts in California and Massachusetts.
California has a program to educate its approximately 7,000 incarcerated veterans on benefits and services. The California Department of Veterans Affairs contacts newly incarcerated veterans to address benefits and services and contacts them six months before their release to plan for a successful re-entry.
Massachusetts has a program that provides peer support and case management services for veterans in the criminal justice system. The program helped develop a new initiative to connect veterans with housing services when they’re released.
The Rhode Island Office of Veterans Affairs has now compiled a case file for each incarcerated veteran.
Yarn went to a minimum-security facility earlier this year for a town hall meeting with veterans. He’s working to add the word “veteran” to their badges and he’d like to create a veterans service organization within the Adult Correctional Institutions.