PHOENIX, Ariz. — Veterans in the custody of theMaricopa County Sheriff's Office are now being housed under one roof.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Wednesday announced the opening of a new veterans-only section at the Towers Jail in Phoenix.
The thought is that housing veterans in one place makes it easier for the Sheriff's Office to provide services that will help ease the inmates' eventual transition back into the community.
"I believe we have to do everything we can for our veterans," Arpaio told a group of veterans being held on suspicion of charges including driving under the influence, robbery and burglary. "Many of you who have fought for our country are here. Some of you, unfortunately, have some medical-mental problems I want to make sure that's rectified. I want to make sure we do everything we can to find a job for you when you leave this jail."
Arpaio said many of the county's approximately 250 veterans in detainment have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental-health issues. Housing veterans in a common area will allow them to support one another and make it easier to provide counseling, job training and other services from the county and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, officials said.
The facility is festooned with painted red, white and blue stripes, and decorated with emblems and flags from the various branches of the military. A large mural painted by an inmate depicts an American soldier on one knee with his head bowed in prayer.
Sgt. Jennifer Perks, who supervises the jail's outpatient substance abuse program and inmate transition services, said, "While they're here we're going to make the best use of their (as) we can. Our intention is for them to be successful when they leave the jail."
Perks said officials hope having the inmates separated from the general population will help them stay on the straight-and-narrow.
"We're hoping that they motivate each other to continue to be successful."
Being able to live around other vets was an "unbelievable gift," said inmate Justin MacGregor, a former Navy petty officer from Phoenix.
Inmate Jesus Garcia, a Chandler resident and former Army specialist who worked as a mechanic, said vets with emotional or mental scars can relate to each other in ways that no one else can.
"We can talk to each other," he said. "It's a bond."