Hamilton County Municipal Veterans Court

 

Mission:

 

RESTORING HONOR

 

To divert veterans from the traditional criminal justice system

to a treatment based court to rehabilitate and assist veterans in leading a productive and law abiding life.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Ohio has over 900,000 veterans, the sixth largest population of veterans among the fifty states. Veterans returning home after discharge find it difficult to transition back into civilian life since many suffer from mental/emotional wounds such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Most often these veterans did not have a criminal history before their tour of duty.  Most of them served in a combat zone, deployed in multiple tours, and received the Purple Heart. Many are homeless, unemployed, disconnected from family, have not applied for any benefit assistance and have not sought any form of help through the Cincinnati VA Hospital even though they are eligible for services. Many veterans self medicate with alcohol or drugs. Some are suicidal.

Hamilton County Veterans Court brings the multitude of the services and resources from our community to the courtroom to assist the veteran with mental health care, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, medical, housing, transportation, educational and employment resources, and veteran’s benefits.

 


Judge Melissa Powers

          As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ----John F. Kennedy

 

As Judge Powers saw veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in her courtroom, mainly for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence, often with the “thousand yard stare”, she realized something more must be done to help the courageous and honorable young men and women. She became committed to doing more to help our veterans. Two years in the making, Judge Powers held the first Hamilton County Municipal Veterans Court on April 5, 2012.  She was committed to helping the returning veteran heal from the wounds of war.

The Veteran Treatment Court helps criminal defendants, who are veterans, deal with trauma and other issues resulting from warfare with the aim of providing healing, support, and a second chance. It does excuse the veteran for committing criminal offenses. Rather, the level of commitment to the judicial supervision of treatment is more stringent than traditional based probation. Veterans who fail to comply with the treatment requirements are diverted to the regular docket.

Once the veteran, who is in the criminal justice system, is identified through evidence-based screening and assessments a referral may be made through pre-trial services, a probation officer, public defender or defense attorney, a prosecutor, or a judge. The veteran voluntarily commits to participate in the Veterans Court by signing a contract with the court. The veterans are judicially supervised in their compliance with a treatment plan that was developed by a team of specialists.

The treatment team, consisting of mental health specialists, pre-trial services, peer mentors, Veteran Justice Outreach Officer, probation officer, law enforcement, public defender, prosecutors, vocational rehab specialist, in conjunction with the professional medical and psychological care providers at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center create a specific treatment plan for each veteran. In addition, the team educates and assists the many veterans who are unaware of the eligibility for VA programs and services. Veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, or other issues often require additional assistance to enroll for benefits they have earned.