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Separate housing unit allows jailed veterans to support one another

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Chris Caya/WBFO News
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The Erie County Holding Center is now better equipped to cater to incarcerated veterans.On any given day, there are nearly two dozen vets in the downtown facility. They can be housed in one unit where Sheriff Timothy Howard says they'll be able to help each other and hopefully turn their lives around.

But, Howard says, they won't be getting any special treatment. 

"It's just a housing unit that's been designated exclusively for veterans to be here with other veterans and know that there's peer support. [They have] similar backgrounds, similar experiences in the military that they can all lean on each other, which was part of their military training," said Howard.

Flags and seals representing the different branches of the military are on display in the housing unit. Its staff includes several deputies who are also veterans, including Deputy Ronald Overturf, who served in Iraq.

"Too many are lost over there and I hate that I see them in here lost, and I see a lot of them. So to see something where we're going to try and help people to get themselves back on track, especially my fellow soldiers, it means a lot," Overturf said.

Officials say having one location will also be more efficient for the Veterans Administration, which provides counseling and other services to inmates.