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Rikers Island opens new unit for inmates who served in the military

RIKERS ISLAND — It’s the first time it’s been done at a jail facility — a unit, specifically for inmates who have served in the military.

“They treat us like human beings who want to be better, it’s amazing,” Matteo Bonomo said Thursday.

The 34-year-old, who was in the army, is one of 17 inmates in the new housing unit on Rikers Island.

“I came in for burglary, did it for money for drugs, this program is helping me in a way I can’t describe.”

The housing area has 50 beds for the men, is outfitted with emblems of the U.S. Armed forces and is set up dormitory-style.

Correction officers who oversee the area, also have military experience.

Officer Jeffrey Wright is in the National Guard.

“I’m a veteran they’re veterans we could relate on some level, we all served at some point.”

NYC Deptment of Veterans Services Commissioner Loewe Sutton was one at the news conference on the island to make the announcement.

“The most important thing we can do for individuals with mental health illnesses is link them up quality services,” she said.

Dr. Nichole Adams, the Department of Correction’s health commissioner added the program gives the veteran inmates what they need to get better, including counselors and close interaction with those with who share similar experiences and illnesses.

“We are grateful for the backing we got on this project and hope we are able to help those who stumbled after serving their country.”

According to city officials, when the jail facility on Rikers Island eventually closes, the program will continue at the local jails that the inmates will be going to.