BILLERICA, Mass. – Today, Governor Charlie Baker joined Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian to formally open the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office Housing Unit for Military Veterans (HUMV) – the Commonwealth’s first correctional unit specifically designed for incarcerated veterans.
“Returning stateside from a tour of duty can present veterans with many challenges, some of which can lead otherwise honorable servicemembers down a path towards substance misuse and addiction,” said Governor Baker. “This special unit will help bend the trend on addiction and give military veterans who have gone astray of the law due to PTSD and similar afflictions, a road to recovery, employment and successful re-entry into society.”
“Our military veterans fought for our country, in some cases returning home with both visible and invisible wounds of war,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “I am incredibly proud to open this unit as a way to create a community among these men who can share their experiences in an effort to overcome adversity with the goal of setting them on a path to a better, more fulfilled life when they return home to their loved ones.”
The guiding principles that govern this unit reflect those incorporated in military life: Respect, Honor, Duty and Integrity. Participation in the HUMV Unit is voluntary and is geared toward creating a community among former military service personnel by fostering an environment of shared experiences and common goals. Programs offered to those in this unit are tailored for veterans and include substance abuse treatment, vocational programming, employment readiness, an optional exercise regiment, visits from the Department of Veterans’ Services, a weekly speaker’s series and transitional assistance.
While the rate of incarceration for veterans nationwide is lower than for non-veterans, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has estimated there were 181,500 incarcerated veterans across the country in 2011-2012. Snapshots show over the last three months that an average of 65 veterans are held at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction on a given day. Presently, 18 men are classified to the HUMV program, and include various branches of the military.
HUMV’s establishment at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction continues a commitment Sheriff Koutoujian began in 2013 when the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office signed a first-in-the-nation agreement with the VA New England Healthcare System and the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Service to identify incarcerated veterans and provide targeted outreach prior to release.