- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

FOLEY, Ala. (AP) - The Baldwin County veterans’ court is preparing to graduate its first class of military veterans who a judge says are determined to get their life back on track.

The court was established last February in Foley to help veterans facing criminal charges get a clean record and start anew, AL.com (https://bit.ly/1AUL3ok) reports.

Baldwin County District Judge Michelle Thomason announced the June 16 graduation before Friday’s “Celebration of Patriotism” event at the Daphne Civic Center hosted by the Baldwin County Republican Party. The graduation ceremony will take place at the Erie Meyer Civic Center in Gulf Shores.

“To have a community event like this will really promote awareness,” Thomason said. “We have to do something to help those men and women who served our country.”

Thomason is one of two people who oversees the court. She said that in order for the military defendants to have their criminal records expunged, defendants must attend court every Tuesday, submit to regular drug and alcohol screenings, mental health evaluations and maintain a clean record for one year.

Veterans who attend the court work through their problems with a variety of people who are part of a “team” that includes of mentors, a substance abuse specialist, a defense attorney and others.

“Our hope is to have a veteran get back into the community in a place where they are respected in the manner they deserve to be respected after serving our country,” Thomason said.

Thomason said the court doesn’t come with significant taxpayer costs. The county doesn’t take federal money to operate it. Some state funding is received to help offset drug testing. Aside from that, Thomason said the only costs come from her salary as judge.

Since the program started, there have been 150 veterans who have visited the court.

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Information from Al.com, https://www.al.com

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