(Editor’s Note: Watch for Bridging the Gap stories each Monday night at 6.
We will focus on re-entry programs at the detention facility – the largest jail in East Tennessee and will talk with Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees who work directly with inmates to find out how the programs work and how our community can get involved. If your business is hiring former inmates and wants to be featured on our program, email Lori at email@example.com.)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s a new program designed to help veterans here in Knox County “Bridge the Gap” when they are released from jail.
Army veteran Kenneth McBrayer has been in and out of jail since 1982. He was the victim of a shooting right after he came home from his service in Korea.
“I’ve been shot in the face and got a lot of medical problems and started out on pain medication, pain pills. Pain pills escalated to actually heroin. You get something when you can’t get something to stop the pain,” McBrayer said. “I finally started kicking the opioids and started drinking. I got to where I stayed drunk most of the time.”
McBrayer is serving time right now for a DUI. He’s housed int he same barracks-style unit as other veterans in a unique program called HUMV, or Housing Unit for Military Veterans.
There are military flags and other items there to remind veterans of their service to our country as they serve their time behind bars.
“At some point in time in their life they took an oath to serve this country and what we want to do is help them find their way and return them back to that person who took that oath,” Assistant Chief Brian Bivens said.
Bivens got the idea for the HUMV program when he visited the Middlesex County, Massachusetts, program recently and saw that comprehensive re-entry services make a difference, from therapy groups to substance abuse treatment, job training, to meetings with state and federal veterans affairs representatives.
Veterans make up 11% of the population at the Knox County Detention Center.
The HUMV program, which started only 3 months ago here, keeps them separated from other inmates for a reason.
“We thought it was very imperative for us to take these individuals out of the subculture of our general population and put them together so they could kind of reunite-develop camaraderie, things that they’re used to,” Bivens said.
McBrayer says the HUMV program is working for fellow inmates who are getting released by helping them find jobs, housing and learn about their benefits.
“I feel like if they’d had some kind of program back then, maybe I wouldn’t be here right now,” McBrayer said.
The HUMV program is in need of veterans to volunteer as mentors or just as a means of support for fellow veterans.
If you’d like to take part, email firstname.lastname@example.org.