Sunday, January 11, 2009

Veterans Court: How It Works In Albany, New York

The Albany, (New York) Times Union reports on an interesting idea that might be useful nationwide:

Special service for those who served

"First came drug courts, followed by domestic violence courts, and now interest is mounting within the criminal justice system to do its part to help veterans who may find themselves standing before judges.

Many men and women returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have difficulties adjusting to civilian life. Some have injuries. Others suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and may resort to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Courts, nationally and in the Capital Region, are paying attention to vets facing charges, just as drug addicts have avoided time behind bars through drug court programs and defendants in domestic violence cases have been given treatment and counseling, so judges want to help veterans, especially those whose cases involve nonviolent crimes.

In January 2008, Buffalo City Court Judge Robert T. Russell Jr. established what is believed to be the country's first Veterans Court. Now, two Albany City Court judges have sent a letter to local veterans' officials, noting their awareness of vets who "may have special needs due to service-related issues."

"In the past, we have attempted to address theses issues with your assistance so that qualified veterans could be diverted from the criminal justice system to the appropriate service provider," said the letter written by Judges William Carter and Thomas Keefe. "Based upon the early success of the Veterans' Court in Buffalo ... we think that this is an appropriate time to contact you and reaffirm our commitment to these men and women who have served in the armed forces."

"We requested updated information from the veterans organizations and let them know that we support them and our veterans," Carter said. "If it is determined that there is a need for a veterans court, we hope to be part of it."
Read the complete article by Carol DeMare at "Special Service For Those Who Served"

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