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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ind. Courts - LaPorte County is developing veterans court

Matt Fritz's long story today in the Herald Argus begins:

La PORTE — Veterans ending up in the La Porte County criminal justice system over service related issues may soon have a second chance at turning their lives around.

That's because a team in La Porte County is developing a Veterans Treatment Court to help treat the underlying issues behind their crimes. And it's looking for veteran mentors.

On Tuesday, program team members, including La Porte County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Koethe, La Porte County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Szilagyi, attorney Kurt Earnst, La Porte County Veterans Service Officer George Watkins, and others, met with veterans at La Porte Superior Court 3 to discuss the reasoning behind the court and the recruitment needs for veteran mentors.

Koethe said this special court is designed to help veterans in the criminal justice system who suffer from alcoholism, substance abuse, anger management, mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder and other issues resulting from their tours of service.

She said crimes related to military service experience is only getting worse.

"I know there's a need because I see it in the defendants coming through court," she said, "and it's going to get worse with men coming back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan."

She said team members are in the process of filling out a notice of intent with the Indiana Judicial Center, and hope to implement the court by April 1, 2014. A specific plan for the court, including who qualifies, is still under development. She said the team has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the Indiana Supreme Court to develop the program.

The program requires offenders to plead guilty to the crime and agree to undergo a 12 to 18 month treatment program, which will be designed around their individual needs. Veterans who are successful will have their charges reduced or dismissed. Those who are not successful will face a sentence based on their plea.

But Koethe said the mentoring portion is what makes the program unique. The program will assign each veteran one or more veteran mentors who understand what they are going through and can help them succeed in the treatment process.

"After they return (from service) veterans deal with isolation issues," she said, "secluding themselves from friends, family and society. Their mentor can be a friend they lean on for help to get them through this process."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 19, 2013 10:07 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts