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Veterans Court: Justice Tailored to War Vets

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 11, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There are so many remembrances to be made and people to be grateful for on Veteran's Day. The following small slice of news regarding veterans may not be on the radar for many Americans, but it is important to at least some of those who have served our country. In Erie County, New York, a judge who was concerned with the young vets coming before him on criminal charges created the first Veterans Court. There are now Veterans Courts in California, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

It is well known that many vets cope with problems when they return home from a deployment and must work to re-adjust to civilian life as well as to any injuries, both physical and mental. Attempts to cope alone can lead to substance abuse or a brush with the law. The New York Times reports that Judge Robert T. Russell, Jr. noticed many of the vets he was seeing in court had serious drug or mental health problems. So Judge Russell created a program to deal with the criminal charges and give these vets a path to recovery.

The Veterans Court in New York, and others like it, takes vets with non-violent convictions and places them on a separate track, giving them treatment designed especially for veterans. Vets in this program are monitored with regular court hearings and supported by Veterans Affairs and other community based organizations. Participants are rewarded for successes, and penalized for non-compliance with the rules, writes The Times. Because they are in a special court with those who have shared and understand their experience, they are also helped by a feeling of community with one another.

In Judge Russell's court, says The Times, there is a 90% completion rate and a 0% recidivism rate.

Former Marine Michael Danny became the first man to graduate Pittsburgh Veteran's Court in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He competed his year of treatment and left the program on Wednesday, November 10, one day before Veteran's Day.

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