From the Military to Prison to a Second Chance: Helping Veterans Find Their Bridge to a Better Future

Editor’s Note:  The “Inside Change” team is very pleased to include this post from Amanda Maassen, the new Community Development Liaison working with the Amicus Veterans Justice Program on our blog.   The Amicus program is part of the Veteran Justice Corps, an AmeriCorps Program coordinated locally by the Council on Crime and Justice and partnering with both the MN Department of Corrections and Hennepin County.  Please consider getting involved with this exciting and much-needed initiative!

Post by Amanda Maassen

I have always known veterans.  Both of my grandfathers were veterans; my dad, a few uncles, and an aunt are veterans.  My whole life, I viewed veterans as regular people who had regular people problems and lived regular people lives because that is exactly who the veterans in my life were.  It was not until I found out that my best friend’s husband, an Army Infantry Soldier with 27 months of combat experience in Iraq, was struggling with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that I realized the extent of sacrifices veterans often make.  When a politician talks about a veteran making “the ultimate sacrifice” I realized that it is not just a cliché.  And finally I realized is that the sacrifice a soldier makes can be all-encompassing – impacting their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

I write about this story because this is the motive that brought me to the brand new Veteran’s Justice Program at Amicus.  My best friend is the strongest and most inspiring person that I have ever known.  She has dedicated herself to helping those who are struggling with the effects of military culture, especially war.  She is a writer and manages two blogs that tell the stories of Wounded Warrior Wives and other family members.  She wants to give a voice to those who cannot find their own.  She wants to provide a safe place for those who want to scream their heart-wrenching stories.

After hearing my best friend’s story, it gave me an entirely new perspective and inspired me to do my part to give back to those men and women who have served our country.  The Veteran’s Justice Program at Amicus is dedicated to helping veterans who happen to have a criminal record.  As an organization that is well-aware of the hardships and challenges that ex-offenders face when transitioning back into the community, Amicus recognized what a difficult transition veterans who have been incarcerated may have in returning to civilian life.  In recognition of these added challenges, Amicus created a program that could help assist veterans in their dual transition.

The Veteran’s Justice Program simply wants be a bridge for those veterans who are currently in prison or those who have ever been to prison.  For all participants, regardless of how long they have been transitioning back into the community, the Veteran’s Justice Program is here to be a support network for that almost inevitable time when their long path gets bumpy.

There are many veteran-specific programs in our community. Beyond the direct assistance we can provide with searches for employment,  housing and other daily needs, The Veteran’s Justice Program is here to help our participants connect with other agencies that can best meet their specific needs and, when necessary, we’ll help our participants navigate through the sometimes confusing and intimidating procedures one may need to go through in order to receive assistance from government programs or other agencies.

Recognizing that it often takes a veteran to understand another vet’s challenges, The Veteran’s Justice Program is here to help veterans with felony records connect with each other through support groups.  The Veteran’s Justice Program is also here to build conversations with other veteran-specific programs and organizations so that we can coordinate our work and best serve our very special population.

The program is looking for volunteers who can serve as mentors and friends to veterans looking for a new start, and is particularly interested in volunteers who are veterans themselves.  We are looking for speaking engagements where we can spread the word about the needs of veterans who are also ex-offenders, and as with nearly all nonprofit programs, financial assistance to operate our program is always welcomed.  Most importantly, if you know of a veteran with a criminal record who may need our support, please refer them to us.  We will work with anyone who has served in the military and been incarcerated, regardless of when they served, the type of military unit they were involved in or the circumstances of their discharge.

For more information or to find out how you can get involved, contact us!

Amanda Maassen, Community Development Liaison – 612-877-4276, amanda@amicususa.org

Mark McDuffie, Veteran’s Advocate – 612-877-4277,  mark@amicususa.org

Amicus Phone: 612-348-8570     Web: www.amicususa.org