SEBRING, Fla. (WSVN) – From serving time behind bars to potentially serving their country, one Florida county jail has launched a program to encourage inmates to join the military after finishing their sentence.

The first of its kind of program in Florida has inmates at the Highlands County jail handpicked for service, Fox 13 reports. Jail staffers pick the inmates and then mentor and coach them to get them ready to join the military.

“If they have the heart and the ability, and they want to serve our country, what greater good can they do?” said Detention Deputy Scott Waldon.

Waldon, who joined the U.S. Marines when he was young, now has made it his purpose to encourage inmates who want to improve their lives by serving in the military. He’s currently mentoring 20-year-old Shiglenn Butler, who is currently in jail on a battery charge, but will be released in the next few months with hopes of getting into the Army.

“I feel like it can change my life,” Butler told Fox 13.

The staff helps those involved in the program get their academics straight while in jail. The inmates study math, English and science every day so that they could pass the ASVAB military entrance exam.

“They’ve got all the help [they need], but they have to want it,” said Lt. Chris Rittenour.

After the inmates finish their sentencing, the plan is to set up a halfway house for them. This allows them to focus on getting into military service instead of going back out on the streets.

The new program at the Highlands County Jail is one of the few programs in the country.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox