Veteran's Courts Expanding
Excerpt: HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's first special court for nonviolent criminal defendants who also happen to be military veterans got up and running in Pittsburgh last fall on the Marine Corps' birthday.
Since then, veterans' courts also have begun operating in Scranton and Philadelphia, and next week in Harrisburg a statewide task force will hold its first meeting with the goal of expanding the effort to courthouses across the state.
The "problem-solving courts" approach is not new, having been used in Pennsylvania and many other states to deal with mental illness, domestic violence and substance abuse by addressing underlying causes of defendants' misbehavior.
About three years ago a judge in Buffalo, N.Y., set up the nation's first veterans' treatment court, and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is helping other states adopt similar procedures.
In Pennsylvania, the push is being led by state Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, a Marine veteran who observed the link between criminal behavior, mental illness and substance abuse as a longtime Philadelphia police officer and city judge.