Unique program helps veteran inmates in east N.C.

HOOKERTON, N.C. (WNCT) – In Green Unit K, Pod B of the Maury Correctional Facility, every convict is a veteran.

North Carolina Department of Public Safety officials visited the state’s first-of-its-kind cell block Tuesday to get a look at the experiment designed to help inmates thrive.

“We’re all brothers in arms,” said Howard Lee, a veteran inmate. “Simple as that.”

Many suffer from PTSD and other effects of war.

“Our veterans suffer a great deal from stress from whatever war they were at and whatever conflict they were in,” said Kenneth Lassiter, deputy director of operations for N.C. DPS prisons. “We want to be able to provide them with some resources to help them get back to their families.”

“The veteran community tends to go back to their training and have higher levels of cleanliness and higher levels of order,” said Dawn Wrenn, a mental health counselor and trauma specialist. “They often feel more able to relate to one another.”

The men self-police themselves and attend regular group therapy sessions and workshops.

Gregory Ellerbee served in the army before being convicted of first-degree burglary and felony assault.

Here in Pod B, he has one of the cleanest rooms.

“Tragic situation happened, and I’m here now,” Ellerbee said. “At first, I was reluctant to acknowledge my veteran status, but I started attending some of the group meetings, and I think once I walk out that door the world’s going to be a totally different place for me.”

He has about 26 more months to go.

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