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Jail unit for veterans proving successful in Onondaga County

Ellen Abbott
The common room of the Incarcerated veterans' Unit at the Jamesvill Correctional Facility

A six-month old jail unit in Onondaga County dedicated to housing prisoners who are also veterans is proving to be a success.  

Gary Bixler became addicted to opioids during a stint in the Army while recovering from an injury. A drug related crime has left him serving a lengthy jail sentence at the Jamesville Correctional Facility. He said being part of a special unit for vets that offers perks and special services has made a big difference in his life.

"There’s actually programs designed around substance abuse counseling, and life balance and changing the way of thinking," Bixler said."It’s been incredibly helpful for me personally. It’s something that if I was a normal inmate just going through the program that I never would have gotten.”

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Gary Bixler is a veteran who is in jail after being convicted of a drug crime

The new Incarcerated Veterans' Unit opened in April, shortly after the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department took control of the county jail. The idea was to show respect to vets who are in the corrections system, offering little perks like a microwave and refrigerator.

More importantly, these inmates receive specific veterans services ranging from help with substance abuse to family counseling. Assistant Commissioner George Manolis said you can tell this 16-cell unit is different.

"We’ve received a couple of letters from inmates basically thanking us for providing services. And they take pride in this unit," Manolis said. "There’s been almost no disciplines in this unit. It’s spotless," ”

Several other local jails across the state offer special units for vets.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.