Veterans Court

Marine Corps New York / flickr

A number of  deployed soldiers return home with severe mental and physical issues. In some instances this could result in criminal actions. The Veterans Court works to find alternatives to incarceration for servicemen and women. We discussed how the program has been working here in Western PA with Ronald Scott, a veteran and graduate of the program as well as David Hickton, US States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Hickton explains that both mentors and mentees benefit from the relationship built by Veterans Court:

"I think they find that the love and support they get from someone they might have never known before gives them the faith they need to trust the society that they're re-entering, and it allows them to shed the anger which causes them to operate off the grid." -David Hickton

Also in today's program, Andy Masich helps us celebrate the 75th birthday of the Jeep (first produced in Butler), and FreeBurgh previews free events in June. 

Veterans courts go above normal courts, offering veterans charged with non-violent crimes options for treatment for drugs and alcohol or other issues that could have led them to being charged with a crime. Legislation introduced in Harrisburg would increase the number of veterans treatment courts.

“Right now about 16 counties have those courts, but 50 do not. We would like to require it,” said Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin).

Veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse could ping-pong through the criminal justice system for years without a support system that recognizes common problems facing former members of the military.

That’s the premise of Pennsylvania’s veterans treatment courts, which started as county initiatives several years ago to help the state’s veteran population — the fifth largest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.