- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

HOLYOKE, Mass. (AP) - Two new courts specifically aimed at helping military veterans in legal trouble are opening in Massachusetts.

Veterans Treatment Courts will start hearing cases in Holyoke on Wednesday and in Lawrence on Thursday.

The courts are intended to handle veterans who have pleaded guilty to a criminal charge. Under the voluntary program, rather than being sent to jail, the veterans enter a heavily supervised program where they get the services they need for substance abuse and mental health issues.

Each defendant is also given a mentor - another veteran - to help guide them through the process.

The program is only open to veterans charged with misdemeanor and minor felony charges.

The state’s first veterans’ courts were established in Dedham and Boston. Authorities say those have helped reduce recidivism.

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