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Proposed bill would teach jailers how to interact with veterans in the criminal justice system

Posted at 10:53 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:53:14-04

Fighting to protect our freedoms can take a toll on veterans, leaving them with mental health struggles like PTSD. That trauma can also lead them to crime.

“There are many prisoners, that include veterans, that have higher rates of trauma from previous trauma in life that may attribute to the behavior that landed them in prison," explained Texas A&M University-Central Texas Associate Professor of Social Work Col. Jeff Yarvis (Ret).

Yarvis, also a local veteran, says he faces his own PTSD. He says it’s tough to overcome, and even harder when you’re behind bars.

“You’ve added an additional challenge now, overcoming that history of being incarcerated as well and then working through the trauma itself. Some of these veterans may be isolated, and they don’t know how to seek care and they may not be aware that it’s happening to them," said Yarvis.

Approximately 9% of U.S. veterans and service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been arrested since returning home, according to the US Department of Veteran Affairs. It is why Texas lawmakers are working to pass legislation to help.

“So what House Bill 1443 really does is put in motion what's consistent with the latest we know about trauma reformed care for veterans. It trains our folks [jailers] on how to interact with them, identify it and then deal with it," said State Representative Ray Lopez (TX-125).

The course is structured around lectures, videos, and class dialogue, as well as role playing and hands-on practices built to help a U.S. veteran in crisis.

“There’s just this expectation when they get out there, I’ll transition into society. Having that support care and then training is very important. It helps them feel normal," said Yarvis.

“The way you give a second chance, yes, but identify what the issues are and remove those roadblocks and let them proceed. This training program for the jailers is going to be a big step in that," said Rep. Lopez.