Just a few years ago, only a handful of county courts offered struggling veterans an alternative to incarceration or escalating fines. Today, 35 counties have dedicated teams of local, state, and federal partners coordinating services directed at veterans who’ve committed low-level crimes or misdemeanor infractions. The following stories provide a closer look at three of these programs:
Riverside County Superior Court
Started: January 2012
Treatment Team: District Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, Riverside Police Department, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Mental Health, and Riverside County Probation
Presided over by Judge Mark E. Johnson
"Out of all the people I've saved, who is going to save my life? And today I know, that answer is veterans court." —Luis, Flight Medic/Veterans Court graduate.
Video: A Veterans Court Success Story, from Riverside County (with Judge Mark Mandio presiding)
Fresno County Superior Court
Started: June 2016
Treatment Team: District Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Fresno County Probation Department
Presided over by Judge Hilary Chittick
"Treatment is more effective at preventing crime in the future. We have to deal with what causes crime now to prevent it later.” —Judge Hilary Chittick.
Video: PBS Features Fresno County Veterans Court
Contra Costa County Superior Court
Started: August 2017 (Funded by the Judicial Council's Innovations Grant Program)
Treatment Team: District Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Contra Costa County Veterans Services Office, Public Defender's Office, and the County Behavioral Health Division
Presided over by Judge Laurel Brady
"We've gotten a tremendous amount of support from all the agencies involved because they recognize that this is a population that is different perhaps or has different needs." —Judge Laurel Brady.
Video: Judge Laurel Brady speaks (at 18:30m) on establishing the court's program with funding from the Judicial Council's Court Innovation Grant Program.