Local correctional center honors incarcerated veterans behind prison walls

CAPRON, Va. - "U.S. Marine Corps/Where you at Coast Guard/Left, left/ Left, right left," chanted inmates inside Deerfield Correctional Center.

Members of the Incarcerated Veterans Chapter at the state prison in Capron kicked off the ceremony with a head-turning drill.

"We are unified," the men yell out.

Two hundred and eleven men dressed in all blue filled the gymnasium Friday afternoon as leaders paused to applaud them for their service as they sit behind bars.

"You learn things like honor, courage, respect and you always want to put God and country first," said Malik Muhammed, an inmate currently serving 25 years.

Deerfield Correctional Center is home to 1,100 inmates - mainly elderly, with a great deal of them being veterans.

"These vets are a different class, but they are human beings. They've made bad choices, but they will be released soon and it's important for us to recognize that we need to provide them skills and opportunities," said Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

The prison is one of 16 correctional centers in the Commonwealth working to ready the former heroes for life outside the walls. Several programs inside the jail work to help them with PTSD, job readiness, benefits help and more.

Related: Hampton church turns drug house into halfway home for homeless female veterans 

"Being in the veterans pod, it helps us because we share the same things, we share the same experiences, we are able to relate better and we can discuss what's next for our future," said James Davenport, an inmate serving 19 years at the prison.

Speakers, the warden and other dignitaries honored the incarcerated veterans Friday with several awards and thanked them for helping the Southampton County community in various ways.

"It gives us a sense of pride, gives us our dignity back, lets people know we are more than our crimes and what we have been incarcerated for," said Muhammad.

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