Missouri Department of Corrections Offers Program for Veterans

By Rachel Leber

MOBERLY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Corrections houses more than 1,860 offenders who self-identify as U.S. military veterans. For the 133 self-identified veterans who are inmates at the Moberly Correctional Center (MCC), a new opportunity for support and programming is being offered in the form of a Veterans Prison Program that started just six months ago.

The six-month-old Veteran’s Prison Program is intended to address the special needs and challenges that so often are a factor for the U.S. veteran population, including but not limited to substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

The Missouri Department of Corrections Veteran’s Prison Project includes PTSD treatment, substance abuse treatment, anger management and group therapy. In addition, many peer-led courses and mentoring programs are part of the program, including classes on parenting guidance, victim impact and cognitive behavior training. Within the program, veteran inmates can earn privileges to hold card tournaments, softball games and movie nights. Veteran inmates also schedule training and maintenance and observe traditional military rituals such as raising and lowering a U.S. flag daily.

The new veteran’s program found its origins from a piloted PTSD program that was started in 2016 by Trish Cahill, licensed clinical social worker and institutional chief of mental health services at MCC. Cahill saw changes in the participants immediately after starting the group and realized that there was more of a need for this type of programming than MCC had originally understood.

“We had never in the prisons — in terms of housing, reentry, therapy — done anything specifically for veterans,” Cahill said in a statement on the Missouri Government Website. “We piloted this PTSD group, and then we realized how big it was. It exploded.”

The program currently has a special wing with enough beds for 66 participants, with 51 of those beds being occupied as of Dec. 5, according to a recent article from the Columbia Missourian. For an inmate to be considered for the program, they must have served in the military and be able to provide a DD214 proof of discharge. The program looks at each case on an individual basis to determine what benefits can be given through Veterans Affairs based on each inmate’s discharge status, and includes holds veterans who have served from pre-Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stay tuned for further coverage of the project in the January/February issue of Correctional News.