Veterans Serving through AmeriCorps VISTA Support Georgia Incarcerated Veterans July 16, 2013Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
Brian Faulds and Ronnie Miley, military veterans and AmeriCorps VISTA members serving Volunteer Macon through the ALA Call to Service Corps, have spent the last few months of their service terms focusing on an often ignored group of veterans — those experiencing incarceration.
Most recently, Faulds and Miley contributed to a service fair for incarcerated veterans organized by TOPSTEP (The Offender and Parolee State Training Employment Program), an initiative of the Georgia Department of Labor.
The service fair took place at Riverbend Correctional Facility, a medium-security complex in Milledgeville, which is exploring ways to decrease recidivism and create positive outcomes for those people it releases. The VISTA members represented Volunteer Macon and the Macon Community Blueprint, sharing information about community resources for offender veterans upon their release and providing tips for locating employment in the communities to which they will be returning.
“It was great,” said Faulds, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “(The veterans) said they felt human again. It was the first time (since their imprisonment) they were recognized for their (military) service.”
Incarcerated veterans face many of the same issues returning to civilian society as do transitioning servicemembers, such as finding employment, behavioral health services and readjusting to an environment markedly different from the one to which they have grown accustomed. Though often overlooked in the ongoing national conversation about veterans, incarcerated veterans are both significant in number and in dire need of support.
“It’s really interesting when you look at recidivism and compare it to the problem of veterans re-entering society,” Faulds said. “We’ve found that in both cases the major benchmark is getting a job. It’s reinforces the idea that (the individual) is a stakeholder in the community.”
Both Faulds and Miley are finding their service to incarcerated veterans greatly rewarding. Miley, a veteran of both the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army, and a second term AmeriCorps VISTA member through the ALA Call to Service Corps, was effusive about the project and his national service. “It’s a passion for me,” he said. “I think it’s my mission to serve veterans. They’re my comrades-in-arms and I feel close to them.”