Vista jail expands veterans program

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VISTA, Calif. – The Vista Detention Facility opened the doors to a new module of its veterans jail on Friday.

The new module is part of the Veterans Moving Forward program. Since the program began, none of the 69 inmates that were released have been arrested for new offenses.

Shawn Perez was transferred to Vista from the County's Central Jail facility a month ago. He was one of 32 placed in the first veterans module that opened last year. He said he has already noticed a difference.

"I don't even feel like I'm here with inmates,” Perez said. “There's a camaraderie that I have with the other people, the other veterans that are here.”

The second module is a 32-bed unit is complete with patriotic colors and military artwork.

"This program is helping them because they're able to bring back the resources and the core values that they had in their life at one point, when they were in the military," Capt. Frierson said. "Just bringing back that confidence helps these gentleman transition back into the community."

In the program, all correctional counselors and deputies are also veterans. The modules are like military barracks, with brothers that can relate and encourage each other.

"We're a tight group," Perez said. “We stick together, help each other out. We don't let each other fall because we pick each other up.”

"I never knew I could stay out,” said former inmate Kimbra Kelley. “That's always been my problem. Now I've learned how to stay out of jail.”

Kelley was released from jail Aug. 25. He was one of the first inmates in the Veterans Moving Forward program.

"I see that everything I do, right or wrong, I have a choice. I have a say in it," Kelley said.

Both Perez and Kelley said the veterans program provides tools so veterans can see it's their choice to succeed in life.

"It gave me the knowledge to know that I could whatever I wanted to do with my life from this point on," Kelley said.

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