INDIANAPOLIS — There are 28 veterans now living in a specialized dormitory in Indianapolis.
The Indianapolis Re-Entry Educational Facility is a minimum-security level facility that maintains public safety while providing residents with the skills required for successful re-integration into the community, with the ultimate goal of reducing recidivism. It is a part of the Indiana Department of Corrections.
“In the state of Indiana, there are more than 1,400 incarcerated veterans,” said Alexis Dean, the new dorm’s re-entry specialist. “That’s a large population that have specialized benefits they may not know they are eligible for.”
The idea was first discussed more than a year and a half ago and is now finally coming together.
“This all started long before I came into the picture,” Dean said. “It’s been coming down the pipes for a while.”
Along with the incarcerated veterans, there are also several veterans who work for the Department of Corrections.
“And many of these veterans work at the Central Office,” Dean said. “They’ve been an excellent driving force, making connections with different veterans’ affairs offices.”
She said this particular IDOC population has been overlooked and may be misinformed as to what benefits they may have. The program at IREF is the first specialized veterans program in the IDOC and can provide services to up to 106 residents.
“We currently have 28 veterans living in the dorm,” Dean said. “They were already here at IREF. Many of them had actually already identified themselves to each other and were meeting on a regular basis to talk.”
She said they had made their presence known to one another, even if they didn’t live in the same dormitory.
Dean said having all of the veterans together in one dorm will make it much easier for programs that come into the facility.
“We have a wide age range,” Dean said. “I think our youngest veteran is 30. He’s the one with the most recent service experience.”
The offenders ages reach into the mid-60s, she said.
“Many of them were in the service at the same time, but we do have a couple gentlemen who are younger,” Dean said.
The new dorm concept is still in the development stages. However, the participants went ahead and moved into the dorm, knowing that it would take a few months to get the new programming moving.
“And I can’t speak highly enough of the people giving us assistance,” Dean said. “We are hoping the gentlemen of this dorm will want to form our own color guard for the facility. We will also be doing some fundraisers for veterans’ programs.”
Now that he concept has started, she said, information is being distributed to other facilities to see if there are offenders who would like to join this specialized dorm.
“They would have to apply to IREF first, (be accepted), then to the veterans’ program second,” Dean explained.
In collaboration with the Veterans’ Affairs Center in Indianapolis, the Department of Workforce Development, and other outside agencies, the residents will receive assistance with developing job skills and locating employment and housing.
U.S. Air Force veteran William Dickerson, a resident at the facility, issued a statement that reads, “Setting aside a dorm for incarcerated veterans lets me know that I am not forgotten about, that I am not excommunicated from society. For the Department of Correction to recognize military veterans means more to us than words can express.”