WXXI Local Stories
Mon February 9, 2009
Rochester Veterans' Court Opens for Business
By Bud Lowell
Rochester, NY – The Rochester Veterans' Court held its first session this afternoon. It's an effort based on the successful Rochester Drug Court, and intended to help veterans who've had a brush with the law stay out of future trouble.
Veterans Court grew out of the Alternative to Incarceration Program at the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center.
Greg McClune is the case manager for ATIP. He says State Supreme Court Justice Patricia Marks worked with the Outreach Center to expand the Drug Court model for veterans. As with the drug and domestic violence courts, Veterans' Court is meant to identify veterans who have committed minor infractions, but appear to be on a path leading to more serious crimes. It matches them up with appropriate services and gives them close supervision to keep them on track.
A recent study showed that only 15 percent of Drug Court participants get arrested again. The number is more than 75 percent for offenders who don't. McClune says they expect similar results with Veterans' Court.
McClune says veterans -- particularly those who have been in combat -- will sometimes self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to deal with their experiences. This can lead to job loss, family alienation and arrest for drug or related offenses.
Veterans' Court identifies those who stayed out of trouble before their military service and looks at what led them to court after getting out. The courts then work through advocates from veterans' groups and the VA to get them into alternatives to jail. Usually those are substance abuse or mental health programs.
The Veterans Alternative to Incarceration Program is funded by a mix of private donations and government grants. It currently handles about 30 clients, and the Veterans Outreach Center is hoping to triple that as the program gears up.