Veteran's Courts: Connection Sets Them Apart
For many veterans who end up in a courtroom facing drug-related charges, jail time may be certain. But now there may be an alternative to prison.
Many jurisdictions throughout the country have instituted a Veterans Court program, which allows defendants facing drug charges to avoid prison in exchange for strict monitoring and enrollment in drug treatment programs.
The program features mentors, who are mostly veterans themselves, assisting participants with job placement, educational benefits and enrollment into treatment programs at local Veterans Administration hospitals.
And for many in the program, the connection with another veteran is what sets the program apart.
"The judged noticed that if a veteran came before him and he asked me to come up ... the person's demeanor changed," said Jack O'Conner, a Vietnam veteran, who served with the Army and was part of the driving force that started the first Veterans Court in Buffalo, N.Y. "They trusted us more than they trusted him [the judge] or the lawyer."
Opening in January 2008, the Buffalo court has seen more than 110 veterans come through its doors and successfully leave the program, said O'Connor. And that success rate can be attributed to the mentor-veteran relationship.