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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Program eases transition for formerly incarcerated veterans

Al Hadlock, an Army veteran and convicted bank robber,  moves furniture  to the front of the downtown Goodwill store  on Monday.  (Dan Pelle)

Al Hadlock would be the first person to tell you how bad he messed up his life.

When federal officers finally caught up with the Army veteran-turned-bank- robber at the Spokane train station in 2005, Hadlock was ready for them to end his drug-fueled crime spree through several Midwestern states.

He says he pleaded guilty to every charge against him and even told them about “some robberies they didn’t know about.”

Hadlock remembers seeing his name on the federal case against him, United States of America v. Hadlock, and thinking: “I was part of the U.S. government once, and now I’m on the opposite side.”

He believes his military career, from 1996 to 2000, helped persuade the judge to sentence him to 6  1/2 years, at the low end of the sentencing range, but his combat training also was the reason he landed in the high-security U.S. penitentiary in Victorville, Calif.

Hadlock was released to a halfway house in Spokane this July. Now he’s trying to build a new life with the help of a federal program for incarcerated or recently released military veterans administered by Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest.

With a one-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Goodwill hopes to help as many as 90 veteran offenders re-enter society and prevent them from becoming homeless. The Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program grant is renewable for two years.

After three months, the program Goodwill calls About Face has helped provide life-skills classes, mental health counseling, employment opportunity, housing, clothing and transportation to 19 veterans in partnership with Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Volunteers of America, Transitions and Community-Minded Enterprises.

The veterans are grateful for the chance to become productive members of society again, said Kathy Haugland, Goodwill re-entry program manager.

“They were very productive at one time,” Haugland said of her clients. “Then something happened.”

The veterans typically are referred to the program by family members or case managers. They may have heard about the program in jail or were referred by Spokane County’s new Veterans Court. Some just walked in off the street in need of help.

Recently, Goodwill got a call from the U.S. Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C., asking about re-entry services for a prisoner it plans to release in Spokane in February or March.

When the veterans enter the program they are assigned a case manager. They begin taking classes in self-management, goal setting, responsible renting, job hunting and “moral reconation,” a highly regarded cognitive behavioral treatment for offenders.

An employment specialist helps the veteran develop a résumé and look for work. A housing specialist helps develop a plan to pay for housing.

“They aren’t just going out looking for a job themselves; they have people there backing them up,” Haugland said.

The program’s two case managers, both military veterans, haven’t lost a client yet.

“You would have to try very hard to get kicked out,” said About Face case manager Anthony Foster.

So far, seven veterans in the program have found employment and six have found homes. Others remain in work release or halfway houses.

Hadlock, 41, now lives with family members in home confinement until his probation begins in January. He has taken a job working for Goodwill’s downtown Spokane thrift store on East Third Avenue.

The University High School graduate, who once played football for Whitworth, joined the Army in 1996 and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash. In 1998, Hadlock said, he injured his back in a parachute jump and was medically discharged two years later.

His civilian life came crashing down in 2004, when a drug habit cost him his job and his marriage. In 2005, Hadlock and an accomplice robbed a bank in Columbus, Ohio, and numerous stores in Ohio and surrounding states.

With federal law enforcement on his trail, he returned to Spokane, he said, so that he would be arrested and detained near his family. Hadlock pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan to bank robbery and several counts of robbery using threats of violence, as well as disruption of interstate commerce. He received a 78-month sentence.

“There’re only two ways to go in prison,” Hadlock said. “You either stay the person you were, or you change. I didn’t like that person anymore.”

He said Goodwill has helped him make a new start and hired him when, given his background, his job prospects appeared bleak.

“I’ll never forget what they’ve done,” Hadlock said.