NEWS RELEASE 19-110 -JULY 5, 2019
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office launched its veterans housing initiative Wednesday, inside the Sarasota County Jail.
In 2009 when Sheriff Tom Knight took office, he inspired the creation of addiction recovery pods in partnership with the Salvation Army, behind the walls of the Sarasota County Jail. As a strong advocate for alternatives to incarceration and programs that help with reentry, Sheriff Knight has continued to support unique and progressive programming that makes the best use of an inmate’s time while incarcerated. To date, the Sarasota County Jail has launched more than 50 unique programs including everything from GED to devotional classes, music therapy, and more.
The veterans housing initiative was created in June 2019 and went live on Wednesday when inmates welcomed their first program presented by Sarasota County Veteran Services. County staff talked to inmates about how to obtain and gain access to the G.I. Bill, discharge paperwork, disability options, veteran IDs, and more. The veterans housing area is located within the reentry pod of the jail where inmates had the unique opportunity to hang flags and hand-paint artwork representing the five branches of the military. Inmates will receive regular support and programming from local volunteers and members of the military and veteran communities.
“The veterans housing initiative is an idea we have discussed for years and we are excited to see finally come to fruition,” commented Colonel Kurt A. Hoffman. “As an agency that so strongly advocates for the veteran community, it only made sense for us to also focus on veteran inmates. Life after incarceration is challenging enough without the added pressure of navigating veteran benefits, discharge processes, and often times, PTSD. Through this initiative, we are committing ourselves not only to helping vets while they are in our care but also to ensuring they have proper access to resources after they are released.”
Participation in the veterans housing area is voluntary and inmates must meet specific criteria to qualify. To date, only 10 veteran inmates are enrolled but personnel expect the initiative to grow as programming become more popular.