Corrections department unveils special facility for military veterans at Rikers

The inmates in the unit get daily drug treatment counseling and an array of programs and art activities like acting lessons and a poetry slam


By Reuven Blau
New York Daily News

RIKERS ISLAND, N.Y. — Military veterans behind bars will soon have their own specialized unit on Rikers Island.

The city Correction Department unveiled the 50-bed housing facility inside the Anna M. Kross Center Thursday.

In a June 20, 2014, file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
In a June 20, 2014, file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Veterans in the unit will be visited by a social worker from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs each week. Inmates there will also get additional services provided by a host of community organizations.

Veterans who ask for the special accommodations will be placed in the area outfitted with emblems of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“These are individuals who served our country and deserve a housing area dedicated to their specific needs as they move forward in their lives,” said Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann in a statement.

The inmates in the unit get daily drug treatment counseling and an array of programs and art activities like acting lessons and a poetry slam.

The unit — which is similar to one already in place in Suffolk County — will be staffed by veterans when possible.

That includes Correction Officer Jeffrey Wright, 32, who served an Army National Guardsman who served in Iraq in 2008, Afghanistan in 2012 and in 2017.

“The housing area is much calmer than other areas,” he said, noting many of the inmates are older than in other areas.

“The programs are better because they are more tailored,” he added.

Wright said he relates to many of the detainees in the unit “because we’ve all been away from our families.”

Inmate Gabriel Laureano, 59, volunteered to be placed in the unit.

“We understand each other more and there are fewer problems,” he said. “There’s a certain camaraderie.”

Laureano, who is facing drug charges, served in the Navy from 1978 to 1982.

He's also hoping his criminal case also gets placed in a specialized veteran’s court but that hasn’t happened yet.

©2018 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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