Image: Visiting dignitaries enjoy Sheriff Rand Henderson’s and Jail Administrator Captain Oliver Coward’s Open House, May 1, 2017 for the new Veterans Pod, which opens today in the Montgomery County Jail. The dignitaries included, from left to right, Ms. Natalie Laurent, Administrative Manager of the County Attorney’s Office (in red), County Attorney J.D. Lambright, longtime Republican Precinct Chairman Keith Wagner, and Judge Wayne Mack, among others. 284th District Judge Cara Wood and 359th District Judge Kathleen Hamilton are not in the picture but attended the event.
ERIC YOLLICK, The Golden Hammer
Conroe, May 2 – Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson and Montgomery County Jail Administrator, Captain Oliver Coward, welcomed visiting dignitaries to see a preview of the Jail’s Veterans Pod, which opens today with 19 male inmates. Lieutenant Felicia Webb, who heads up Staff Services in the Jail, and Sergeant Kimberly Anderson oversaw the festivities and provided the audience with an overview of the purpose and operations of the new Veterans Pod, which will house up to 48 male inmates. There will be a separate female Veterans Pod as well.
Captain Kevin Ray, who oversees the East Montgomery County Patrol Division, provided an outstanding explanation of the purpose of having a separate Veterans Pod:
“The Veterans Pod provides the inmates with the opportunity to relate back to the date when they were members of the armed services and gives them the intrinsic motivation to relate back to the time in their lives when they were proudly representing and serving our country. By recognizing veterans for their national service and providing them with a separate area, we hope to allow people who are incarcerated to regain that pride and vigor in their lives and to give them a commitment and attachment to service that will allow them to carry their own lives forward in a positive manner.”
When Captain Ray spoke with The Golden Hammer, he made a special point, “It’s the Jail Administrator and Captain Oliver Coward, Lieutenant Webb, Sergeant Anderson, and their leadership team that deserve the immense kudos for this program. While I’m proud of it, they deserve the credit. Lieutenant Webb and Sergeant Anderson have done a massive amount of work to get us to this point where we can open this important facility.”
Sheriff Henderson explained, “We’re very happy to be opening this facility. Lieutenant Webb and Sergeant Anderson have not only had to make sure the physical facility is ready but, more importantly, they’ve had to coordinate the social services that we’re making available to incarcerated veterans who are able to take advantage of the pod.” The Sheriff explained that the Veterans Pod is the newest wing of the Jail and that it’s set up as a Pod in a “dormitory style” that is the least invasive to the lives of the inmates. “Only non-assaultive types of inmates will qualify to be a part of the Veterans Pod. There won’t be any sexual offenders or inmates accused of sexual assault or violence,” Henderson said.
Lieutenant Webb told the visitors, “We’re very proud of this program in which we’re starting to put inmates in here on May 2. Each morning they’ll have the opportunity to raise the American flag at the flagpole in the recreation yard built as part of the Pod in a reveille ceremony.” Webb said that the Pod will have everything that inmates will need, including classroom, showers, bathroom facilities, as well as facilities for minor medical needs.
“We have many justice-involved veterans,” Sergeant Webb told the group. “We want them to have access to social service programs and classes so that they’ll be better able to deal with their lives when they get back out of here. They’ll wear starched uniforms, crisp uniforms, that’ll make them remember how they felt when they were living disciplined lives in the military.” Webb identified several social service agencies that will provide services to the Veterans Pod inmates, including The Refuge, United Way, CS Ministries, Montgomery County Veterans Services, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. “We intend to provide readjustment services to help veterans find employment, jobs, training, and housing when they get out. These agencies can also teach veterans who to interview for jobs and develop a resume to find work.”
The Veterans Pod will have 48 bunk beds and two shower and bathroom areas.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that approximately 40,000 veterans live in Montgomery County and comprise about 7% of the total population in this community.