16 July 2014

New Hampshire Opens First Criminal Court for Veterans


This past Thursday, Governor Maggie Hassan and other top judicial and military officials gathered to dedicate New Hampshire’s first veterans court. Many cases involve recidivism, substance abuse, and anger management stemming from stress and trauma experienced during the service. The court’s focus will be on intense treatment programs catered specifically to veterans in order to get them back on track.

The project is 18 months old, envisioned by Jo Moncher, the bureau chief of the state health department’s community-based military programs. Chief Justice Linda Dalianis refers to the court as a tribute to the courage and valor of the soldiers and veterans of New Hampshire. Major General William Reddel says the court is not a get-out-of-jail-free card but a means to fix many of the underlying problems causing the crimes. The court will help veterans as well as thousands of family members.

Some might think a court like this might be a waste of time since there is such a limited population, but the data suggests something different. Diane Levesque, who runs the Veterans Justice Outreach program at the VA Medical Center, says she has an active caseload of 100 veterans facing criminal charges with more than 500 cases since she took over the program in January of 2012. At the moment, at least 260 veterans are behind bars in state prisons.  

New Hampshire is not the first state to adopt this special type of court. Currently, there are 160 of these courts around the United States. Judge Robert Russell founded the first court in Buffalo, New York in 2008 when he noticed an increase of veterans in drug and mental health court.  

There are many questions surrounding the court’s establishment, but it seems like a step in the right direction in setting veterans on track for a productive civilian life. Do veterans deal with problems in ways that deserve a separate court? Do you think separating veterans from traditional judicial proceedings is appropriate? 

Start the discussion here and connect within the military network.

Image Copyright: PO3 Nick Kaylor/ US Navy

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