Ingham Veteran's Court starts

Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

"The Ingham county veteran's treatment court identifies veterans or persons who are currently serving who become criminal defendants. The court will coordinate any needed services and provide a mentor for peer counseling," said 54B District Court Judge David L. Jordon announcing the official start of the Ingham County Veteran's Treatment Court (ICVTC) in his courtroom in East Lansing on May 3rd.

"We will provide structured probation with judicial oversight. We strive to treat every veteran with dignity and respect. These are men and women who have been placed in harm's way on our behalf and they deserve no less," he said.

The ICVTC integrates alcohol and drug treatment and mental health services with supervision of each Veteran's probationary case. The court helps Veteran defendants access treatment using the sources available to them from the Veterans' Administration.

The program is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, the Ingham County Circuit Court, 54A, 54B and 55th District Courts, Ingham County Prosecutor's office and local police agencies. Guy Sweet of the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office will be prosecutor for all ICVTC cases.

Supporting partners with the court include the Battle Creek Veteran's Medical Center, the Veterans Service Organizations, and Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter (1/3rd of the occupants are veterans) and the Michigan National Guard. Key to the program are the retired and active veterans who volunteer their time to be mentors to the veterans in the program. They receive training provided by the Michigan National Guard. Currently thirteen mentors are being trained.

"We are assigned by age and shared life experience," said Master Sergeant Dave Dunckel. "Veterans that served in Iraq will have mentors who have also served there. Veterans often don't seek help when they need it. We can help them find and accept the help they need, get copies of necessary records, and access services with the Veteran's Administration."

The Michigan Supreme Court and SCAO (State Court Administrative Office) supported the ICVTC. "Michigan has been a leader in therapeutic courts going back 20 years. We have had all kinds of therapeutic courts," said Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly. "The common goal of these courts is that they address the underlying problem bringing people into the criminal justice system. The key features of these programs are the same--they involve intensive supervision, frequent review hearings before a judge, graduated incentives and sanctions.

"These programs, both here and across the country are proving their worth. Studies show that graduates of therapeutic courts are less likely to commit offenses again leading to less cost to the community and the victims. For every person that successfully completes a program, there is a family made stronger and a community more cohesive.

"This program will serve the men and women who served this country. It is my hope that this program will serve our veterans as well as they have served all of us," she said.

Major John Wojak, Michigan National Guard, on behalf of the ICTVC, presented Justice Kelly with a coin inscribed with the words 'Fortitudine vincimus, in Latin meaning 'By endurance we conquer.' He explained that in the military, coins are rewarded to someone who has done exemplary work. The coin is in recognition of Justice Kelly's leadership on the Michigan Supreme Court and the State Court Administrative office, which allows the ICTVC to accept cases from all the courts in Ingham County.

In keeping with its mission to "Leave no Veteran Behind," the Veteran's Court will work to:

--Coordinate services between the court, probation, the Veteran's Administration and any service providers.

--Provide veteran mentors--an individual they can trust and can help with jobs, housing, or other problems as they appear

--Provide probation mentoring and court supervision twice monthly

--Coordinate feedback between the court, probation, veterans' administration, and service providers

--Treat the needs of the Veteran promptly and professionally.

The Veteran's court will be held in Courtroom 2 of 54B District Court, located at 101 Linden Street, East Lansing, 48823. For more information, contact 54b District Court at 517-351-7000.

Published: Mon, May 17, 2010