“Veterans have unique problems, separate and apart from, a significant extent from others in the defendant population,” says Judge John DeMarco with Monroe County Court.
DeMarco says most veterans in the criminal justice system are there because of issues involved with their military service, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or military sexual trauma. “Vets Court” is designed to assist with certain legal troubles stemming from military service.
“In simple terms, we get at the root of the problem, hopefully, make sure that when the process is finished, they don’t return to court,” says DeMarco.
The process involves matching a veteran with a veteran mentor from the same service branch. The time frame from arraignment to graduation is 12 to 18 months. In that period, the veteran has to remain sober, complete community service, and get a degree or certification.
“But perhaps most importantly, they will have developed a support system,” adds DeMarco.
That system can be the VA, Veterans Outreach Center on South Avenue, their treatment providers, or anyone else they work with during their journey.
“And if there were to be some sort of relapse or difficulty, support will be right there to pick them back up. They’re one of our most valuable assets. They’ve worn the uniform, they’ve protected our country. I think they deserve our best attention,” he adds.