HILLSBORO, Ill. (WAND) - According to a study done by the Justice Department, more than 180,000 veterans are in prison.
Right here, in central Illinois, more than 100 men at Graham Correctional Center once served our country.
The GrahamVets Program was founded in the 1990's by an ex-Marine and correctional officer, Melvin Durbin. It's a program that seeks out why veterans wind up in the prison in the first place.
Veteran Richard Rife said he served as a Fort Drum infantry man for eight years.
"The measure of success isn't what you do when you're on top, it's how high you bounce when you hit rock bottom," Rife said. "All these veterans here have hit rock bottom."
Rife said he transferred to Graham Correctional Center for the GrahamVets program.
"I didn't realize how big of a mess I was until I got out of the military," Rife said. "I was checking to make sure doors were locked at all hours of the night, you know, white-knuckled driving everywhere I went, looking on the side of the road at trash bags for ID's."
Senior Chaplin Daniel Shreve said the program is all self-supporting, meaning the veterans are the teachers.
"There's all kinds of classes, whether it's relationships, learning how to be a husband, overcoming addictions or learning how to get away from alcohol and drugs," Shreve said.
According to Rife, when he returned home from war, it was hard to readjust back into society.
"I have a lot of pride, so it was difficult for me to come into an office and say, 'Hey, I'm up all hours of the night, I feel like I'm going crazy, I wake up in the middle of the night crying'," Rife said. "It's shameful and as grown men, it's hard to admit those things."
Veteran John Knuckles served in the United States Marine Corps for four years. During that time, Knuckles said he was groomed to deal with conflict through violence.
"I was taught that from a 17-year-old kid on up," Knuckles said. "I had a problem adjusting to society and because of that, I turned to drugs and alcohol. From then, I began committing crimes to support my habits. Now I'm incarcerated today for, unfortunately and I'm remorseful for this, first-degree murder."
Knuckles also transferred to Graham Correctional for the program.
"If you have a disagreement with somebody, instead of losing control emotionally or getting angry, I'm learning how to resolve that issue in a healthy matter," Knuckles said.
Shreve said the program is looking to get full-time professional counselors for the veterans. He said he hopes programs like this will start becoming available in other prisons.
"On the door of the chapel here, it says that change begins within," Shreve said. "I want them to know, we do care, we do love you and this country that you served has not turned its back on you."