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A new housing unit catering specifically to incarcerated veterans was unveiled today to at the Erie County Holding Center.

Member of the Veterans Administration and Buffalo Veterans Court Judge Robert Russell joined Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard for the official opening of the new housing area, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the state aimed at addressing the special needs of incarcerated veterans.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, about 22 veterans are being held at the holding center on any given day. Many suffer from similar ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Housing veterans together at the holding center will allow them to talk to and relate to others who wind up finding themselves in the same incarcerated condition.

Also, housing the veterans in one location will assist the Veteran’s Court and the Veterans Administration in better serving the needs veterans who have been incarcerated, allowing the staffs of both to hold group counseling sessions and linking veterans with existing services.

“This really is a win-win situation for everyone involved in helping with the rehabilitation process of men who served our country,” said Howard. “If anybody deserves a second chance, it’s the men who put their lives on the line to defend our nation.”

In addition, the new space at the holding center will be staffed with deputies who are also veterans. Similar programs are being run at jails in Virginia, Georgia, Florida and California.