- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Officials in Warren County are considering setting up a special court for veterans who have landed in the criminal justice system.

The courts are typically designed like drug courts, where treatment is used to help veterans avoid incarceration.

The first such court in Kentucky was established in Jefferson County about a year ago, and Hardin County followed after that. Fayette and Christian counties have also carved out slots from their drug courts to establish veterans courts.

“Fifteen years ago, we would periodically have (veterans) in our court systems,” Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron told the Daily News in Bowling Green (https://bit.ly/1jQsHfE). “Obviously, since the length of time that we have had people in combat zones and returning, we have seen both men and women veterans, unfortunately, enter into the criminal justice system. Obviously, as troops are drawing down, we are seeing more and more individuals. We are going to be dealing with more and more veterans having to adapt to civilian life.”

There were 481 defendants who identified themselves as veterans in the Warren County court system between July 2010 and February, and 170 of those said they had seen combat. That’s out of about 16,700 who were arrested and booked into jail during that time.

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will Scott said the veterans court concept is appropriate in cases where defendants can work with an outreach officer and the Veterans Administration to achieve a better result for that veteran.

“But there are some cases where you just don’t do this. These are calls that will be made on a local level. It’s a team effort.”

Cohron said military service can leave residual problems like substance abuse and health issues

“So with a veterans court, we want to be able to apply the resources out there available for veterans to help them with these issues,” he said.

Many people in Christian County recognized a need for veterans court, since it is near Fort Campbell along the southern Kentucky border, Christian Circuit Judge Andrew Self said.

“We’ve had extended, long-term multiple deployments by a lot of soldiers,” Self said. “The cumulative effect of that is pretty profound.”

Veterans court requires willingness on the part of the veteran.

“Somewhat like our drug court model, we will try to get them on a treatment track. As long as those individuals are willing to work with us, we will be willing to work with them,” Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said.

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Information from: Daily News, https://www.bgdailynews.com


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