- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The City of Lincoln will begin a program to keep veterans or active duty military members facing felony criminal charges out of prison and to get them the support and services they need to stay out of trouble.

The Veterans Treatment Court will swear in three mentors Wednesday, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2ptzvVN ) reported. The mentors, all veterans, will later be paired with participants.

Lincoln coordinator Tony Conell said the program will soon start screening potential candidates and go to the Veterans Court Committee to decide if they’re eligible.

Candidates must have to have served in combat, have a mental health diagnosis, be eligible for Veterans Administration benefits and not have a long criminal history prior to their service.

“What we’re seeing is they’re going overseas to serve our country, volunteering to do that, and then they’re coming back and they’re on the court docket,” Conell said.

Participants both have to be recommended and volunteer themselves to part of the program. Lancaster County adult probation Chief Jeff Curry said the program is largely based on what works in the county’s drug court, including drug testing, treatment with Veterans Affairs and group therapy.

The program will be the second of its kind in Nebraska, but Curry said he wants to see it grow across the state.

“Probation’s goal is to keep expanding and helping veterans throughout the whole state,” he said. “So we’re the second, but we’re not going to be the last by any means, and it’s going to keep growing.”

Lincoln’s Veterans Treatment Court will start with only up to eight people, but the treatment team is hoping the program will expand in time.

“And just keep building,” Conell said. “Whatever the needs are.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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