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New Wisconsin court will help vets facing serious consequences

After returning to civilian life, many veterans, especially those exposed to combat, may face problems with the criminal justice system due to the extreme stressors they encountered while in service and the difficulty of returning to a much different way of life. Domestic violence is a common problem among veterans in Wisconsin and around the country, especially when a veteran is struggling with alcohol/drug abuse or a mental health issue.

To address this issue, a new specialty treatment court is opening in southeastern Wisconsin with the goal of helping veterans convicted of certain crimes, including drunk driving, domestic violence and other offenses. After being convicted of a qualifying crime in a regular criminal court, eligible veterans will have their jail sentences stayed in exchange for complying with the terms of the special veteran's court program.

Some features of the Veteran's Treatment Court include weekly or monthly appearances before the judge, mandated therapy or treatment to address the underlying issues or problems, access to agency social workers and a veteran mentor.

The program aims to help veterans get back on their feet after service and avoid some of the serious consequences of criminal convictions, such as post-conviction difficulty finding a job or a lengthy jail term. Veterans, like anyone else, may even face the possibility of losing custody of their children if convicted on domestic abuse charges. The goal of the court is to help veterans resolve these types of criminal charges and access the treatment and support they need.

Although domestic violence is a serious charge, sometimes a treatment program like the newest Veteran's Treatment Court in Wisconsin can produce more effective results for veterans and their families than are offered by the traditional criminal justice system. After serving their country and placing their lives on the line, these veterans often deserve a second chance to make things right and repair a damaged reputation.

Source: JouralTimes.com, "Vets helping vets succeed," Kristen Zambo, August 1, 2012

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