SAN BRUNO (CBS SF) — San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his command staff at the county jail in San Bruno joined other county staff to commemorate Veterans Day and to promote rehabilitation programs aimed at guiding incarcerated veterans them out of custody.

Inmates at the jail Friday heard not only from the sheriff but also from representatives from Community of Veterans Engaged in Restoration, or COVER, a two-year-old program established to reduce recidivism and violence among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated veterans.

Sponsored by the sheriff’s department, COVER works with the Veteran’s Administration, jail psychiatric services and various nonprofit groups to help incarcerated veterans and those who have left prison, with a focus on the unique challenges they face due to their military service, sheriff’s officials said.

Speakers at the Veteran’s Day commemorative event Friday included current COVER enrollees as well as former inmates and COVER graduates who have experienced combat and non-combat tours of duty.

“Orange is the color of disgrace, but today, for the work we do to better ourselves and each other in the COVER program, I am honored to wear this orange,” one Gulf War veteran said Friday.

About 70 U.S. Military veterans are currently being held in San Francisco County jails, according to the sheriff’s department.

Hundreds more take part in post-custody rehabilitative programs that help veterans find housing, employment and help for substance abuse and mental health issues.

“We’re challenged by two distinct populations of veterans: the older, incarcerated veterans, who require a specialized level of care that they didn’t get years ago, and the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan whose health and welfare needs are unique from those of their predecessors,” Mirkarimi said.

He said the sheriff’s department is seeing a growing number of veterans entering the criminal justice system, many of whom suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, in addition to other unique needs.

The sheriff, himself a veteran, along with rehabilitative group representatives, pledged Friday to seek more government funding for reentry programs to deal with increasing numbers of returning veterans entering the criminal justice system.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed)


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