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Incarcerated Veterans At Higher Risk Amid COVID, Yale Project Calls For Release

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public Radio
The Carl Robinson Correctional Institution is a Connecticut Department of Correction state prison for men.

Yale Law School and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress are calling for the release of incarcerated veterans who may be at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

Connecticut has the oldest prison veteran population in the country, according to Garry Monk, an Air Force veteran and executive director of the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress. That older population is more vulnerable than most to the rising wave of coronavirus infections.

“We’re really just asking the powers that be to have some compassion around these veterans; they really are in a bad situation,” Monk said. Yale Law School and the NVCLR wrote an open letter to Gov. Ned Lamont and  Department of Correction Interim Commissioner Angel Quiros asking for safer conditions and release of older and ill veteran inmates.

Monk says some veterans may be in prison as an indirect result of their service. “Because they have PTSD and other illnesses,” Monk said, “they do things that they wouldn’t have normally done prior to going into service. So it’s like, they’re a whole different person now.” 

But post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other conditions weren’t recognized until many years after some veterans were already incarcerated, Monk said.

Other factors caused by the pandemic can impact veterans too. Being without proper PPE as coronavirus spreads can trigger PTSD. Monk compared the situation to combat: “It’s like you are now in chemical warfare and you can’t get to your chem gear.”

The top goal is to get highest-risk veterans out of correctional facilities and also ensure that social distancing and other safety guidelines are followed in facilities.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.

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