CLEVELAND - At the entrance to unit 7G of the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center, you'll see a U.S. Army and Navy flag hung on the concrete walls. Take a few more steps, and you'll find a poster of the soldier's creed, pictures of fighters jets and 20 male inmates - all of them are veterans.
"What we're doing is leveraging the resources that are already here, using them in a better manner," said Ken Mills, director of regional corrections for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department.
Mills and his team launched the center's first-ever specialized housing unit in July for veterans. The goal is to provide training and assistance to inmates who are veterans in hopes of reducing the county's high recidivism rate.
"Every veteran is eligible to come in here, so we have veterans from every service and every age group," added Mills.
Admission into the veterans housing unit is voluntary. Inmates will receive job development training, educational assistance and guidance with VA claims and enrollment.
"We are also offering a winter clothing program for you and your dependents," announced Adam Sandor from the Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission. Sandor addressed the inmates Thursday morning, informing them as to the benefits they receive as a veteran.
"A lot of these gentlemen have no idea what benefits they're eligible for," said Mills, a fellow veteran.
Besides tangible benefits, Mills said he believes the biggest advantage for the inmates comes from bonding with fellow veterans.
"People who come from the military, they respond to this type of structure," he added. "Even if it was 30 years ago, they can strike up a conversation with another veteran, and they have something similar to talk about."
Mills said there was no cost to start up the veterans housing unit, which is comprised of all males. He also said that female inmates who are veterans receive similar assistance but there is no dedicated housing unit for them.