LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - A new Veterans Treatment Court in Calcasieu Parish will offer mentoring and services instead of jail time for military veterans who are facing some criminal charges.
The purpose of the court will be to divert veterans with service-connected substance abuse or mental health disorders out of the court system and toward possible treatment solutions, American Press reports (https://bit.ly/1SFWLtn ).
The Department of Veterans Affairs says nearly 12 out of every 100 Gulf War veterans and as many as 20 out of every 100 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder, a common issue tied to criminal activity among veterans.
Calcasieu Parish is home to roughly 16,000 veterans, with nearly 5,000 in Lake Charles.
The local Veterans Court will be led by Judges David Ritchie and Sharon Wilson. Ritchie said Thursday that the goal is to not only “get the veterans the services they need and deserve,” but to “enhance the quality of life for veterans for years to come.”
The purpose of the court will be to divert veterans with service-connected substance abuse or mental health disorders out of the court system and toward possible treatment solutions.
Wilson said she sees the court as a therapeutic way for “individuals who served our country honorably.”
“A lot of times, what we have asked young men and women to do in combat has caused them to suffer conditions that cause them to be caught up in the justice system,” she said. “This court is designed with a therapeutic model in mind.”
Participants will have a mentor called a “Battle Buddy,” who will be a veteran volunteering to help in various aspects of life.
Harry Cormier, a veteran leading the mentoring effort, said the goal is to help participants function well in society.
“No matter what the individual’s socio-economic standing or what their background, we don’t turn anyone away,” Cormier said.
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