A new club at the Otero County Prison Facility honors and supports veterans

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A few men incarcerated at Otero County Prison Facility in Chaparral, New Mexico have formed a Veteran Inmates Club.

“Here at Otero, we promote rehabilitation,” says Elizabeth Jones, one of the staff sponsors of the club. “One of our groups is the veterans club, and our purpose is to provide support and resources for them to be successful to go back into society.”

The facility recently held a banquet organized by the Veteran Inmates Club.

George Tice, a club member, spoke of the purpose of the event.

“This banquet celebrates a couple things. First of all, one of the main purposes of our club is to promote family bonding. All of the clubs here at the prison, that’s one of the main goals. So, the number-one thing is we try to get families in here, so that they can spend some time with their loved ones.  Also, we’re here to celebrate our veterans.”

Guests of the banquet included Rogelio Maldonado of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Jeff Dray who operates local veteran outreach organizations.

“Well the reason why we’re here today is because of the result of a relationship that we’ve established with the Otero County Prison.”  Jeff Dray explains his involvement. “The relationship that we have with the facility and the community, its working together, and so they’re helping me to help veterans in the community, and then I’m trying to help them here in the facility.”

Rogelio Maldonado further explains, “As a leader, we’ve always said ‘never leave anybody behind’. But this was based just in combat. We came back home, we’ve been doing that, leaving people behind. So now we have a better understanding of the veterans being in prison. They’re our brothers and sisters, so we’re starting to reach out to them. This is what brings me here: to be more educated and to make sure that they’re aware of the benefits and what we can do for the individual, once they leave here.”

At the banquet, the Veteran Inmates Club presented a customized grill and cooler to both organizations. The gifts were made by inmates and will be used in the outreach efforts of these groups.

“We’ve established this relationship where we’ve been going back and forth and benefitting each other,” explains Mr. Dray.  “And it’s really changed my whole outlook on the whole private prison system. Because, previously, when I looked at private prisons, I thought of the negative stigma. And I kind of fell into that. But coming here and experiencing the way Warden Martinez runs the facility and all the staff members that I’ve talked to and the inmates; morale with everybody is generally high.”

George Tice expresses gratitude for the facility’s support. “We’ve kinda got an unlimited pool of sponsors here, so they’ve been really good. The wardens have been really supportive of us. I mean, we haven’t had any issues getting anything done, really, at all. So it’s been really nice. Really good.”