On Tuesday, the King County Council unanimously approved an effort to assists veterans in getting the services they’ve earned when incarcerated in county facilities. King County is home to more than 127,000 current or former members of the United States military, reserves and National Guard who have served active duty. Most veterans make a successful transition back to civilian life. Unfortunately, for some when they come back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of the war has come back with them, which at times means being jailed for their actions.
“Many of our veterans have developed specific needs stemming from their time on the front lines of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, the prime sponsor of the motion “By working to improve access to treatment and services for veterans in County jails my hope is to reduce veteran recidivism. We owe it to the men and woman who have served our country.”
According to many councilmembers, the men and women who wore the uniform and served our country have faced many obstacles and circumstances that differ from those of us in civilian life. Some of these veterans unfortunately find themselves in a County run detention center and have developed specialized sets of needs that require unique programs and services tailored to veterans.
Many veterans suffer from an array of mental wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD affects all aspects of life and is a serious issue that affects veterans. While these men and women are incarcerated the County is in a unique position to be able to offer programs that can begin to address their needs and help to stop the cycle of incarceration.
“It is our duty to provide these veterans with the best services that Martin Luther King, Jr. County can provide so that they can tackle the barriers confronting them in their efforts to transition back into our society,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “It is what is owed them for their service to our country.”
The motion, adopted by the Council at its May 12 meeting, calls on the County Executive to investigate and report back to the Council on improving programs and services for incarcerated veterans in county detention facilities.
The focus of the motion is that by introducing and incorporating veterans’ justice programs, barriers to recovery can more effectively be addressed and resources can be put in place to help stabilize and support veterans and returns these individuals to their communities.
The motion calls on the Executive to examine and report back to the Council with recommendations and options that lead to:
• A reduction in recidivism by veterans,
• Consistent and accurate data on the population of veterans in King County jail facilities,
• Improvement in the coordination of services provided in King County jails for incarcerated veterans,
• Successful veteran reentry into the community after incarceration.
The report with the recommendations would be due to the Council by the end of this year.