On Thursday, February 16, 2017, a small group of students from the West Virginia University College of Law Clinical Law Program traveled to the Federal Correctional Institution-Hazelton, a federal medium security men’s prison facility, to offer programming to incarcerated veterans. Included in the group were student attorneys Michelle Schaller and Bradley Wright from the West Virginia Innocence Project, student attorneys Kirsten Lilly and C.J. Reid from the Veterans Advocacy Clinic, undergraduate social work student Tatum Storey, as well as Professors Valena Beety (WVIP Director) and Jennifer Oliva (VAC Director).
Programming comes in all shapes and sizes, but its importance speaks volumes for the future of inmates. With the decline in prison programming, the West Virginia Innocence Project and the Veterans Advocacy Clinic recognized that programing to help incarcerated veterans with Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, such as disability compensation and discharge upgrades, was one thing the clinics could do to help fill this void by aiding specific inmates with their issues and by providing inmates with the resources and knowledge necessary to help themselves.