Veterans served country, then prison time; some have jobs waiting at Maryland VA cemetery

The transition from living in a prison or jail to living in open society can be challenging on several levels — a new program aims to facilitate that transition for those who served the nation in the military before serving time in Maryland prisons.

Monday, Maryland’s Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will announce a program in which veterans who were honorably discharged before being sent to prison can have a job waiting at a Maryland VA cemetery upon their release.

“Meaningful work and connection to the community is just significantly important to those individuals as they return,” said Robert Green, secretary of the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Green said having a purposeful job is important for any citizen, and likely more so for someone who has paid a debt to society.

“It’s one of the major factors that allows any of us — you or I — to stabilize ourselves in our communities,” said Green. “We should care about the connection to work, since we know that it is a significant reduction factor in recidivism if one can gain employment.”

“Part of our mission inside our institutions is always prepare people for that transition — they are going home,” said Green.

The partnership has hired three formerly incarcerated men who began working in the VA cemeteries while on work details.

The VA and DPSCS will hold a Monday event at 11:30 a.m. at the Cheltenham VA Cemetery on Route 301, in Prince George’s County — one of the state’s five VA cemeteries.

In addition to the obvious benefits of a paycheck, benefits and stability, Green said the job offers former inmates with the opportunity to reconnect with their military past.

“While his path may have taken a different route, he’s returning to give back to those that served our country,” Green said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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