The Pulaski County Veterans Treatment Court held its second graduation on January 28, 2022, to celebrate the graduation of 3 veterans in their completion of the Veterans Treatment Court Program. The virtual graduation was attended by dozens family and friends of the graduates, local stakeholders, community members, county government officials, including Indiana Senator Ed Charbonneau and Congresswoman Walorski.
The Pulaski County Veterans Treatment Court was certified for operation in 2019 and was honored to be the 100th Problem Solving Court in the State to gain certification. The first graduation marks the completion of the program for these participants who have worked very hard to meet the programmatic requirements. Participants spend 12-36 months in the Veterans Court Program working on challenges they face due to their military involvement that have led to criminal activities.
The graduation celebration consisted of remarks from Pulaski County Superior Court and Veterans Treatment Court Judge Crystal A. Kocher, who has provided leadership and support to this program over the past 2 years. It was held virtually do COVID challenges as Pulaski County is in the red.
Judge Kocher commented, “I am extremely proud of our three graduates. Each made difficult life changes and met the rigorous requirements of each phase of the Veterans Treatment Court program to achieve this accomplishment.”
“Further, the professionals who serve on our team have mastered the difficult blend of accountability and compassion that truly is the foundation for this program. They are changing this community and the justice system to one that recognizes the
importance of each individual and the treatment necessary to make our community whole.”
Veterans are assigned mentors while going through the program and the mentors (who are all veterans) provided supportive and encouraging advice to the graduates. Senator Charbonneau, a veteran as well, was in attendance and offered his congratulations to the graduates.
Veterans enter the program after completing an extensive application process and numerous eligibility requirements. Participants are required to attend court 2 times month, work weekly and bi-weekly with treatment providers as ordered, and meet with resource providers and case management. These requirements address each participants individual needs and provide accountability to the program and the justice system. This program was developed out of the need to provide assistance to Veterans in our community.
The local courts previously served as a “revolving door” for those who consistently encountered the justice system. Problem Solving Courts (which includes Veterans Courts) work effectively to link offenders with resources to help them confront sobriety; mental health; or other challenges they are facing. Veterans Court specifically addresses these needs resulting from participants’ military service.
“The Veterans Treatment Court program is incredibly challenging and there is high level of accountability and constant check-points for the participants. It would be easier for most to complete their time in the justice system however, we know that they do not get the help or support they need while in jail and/or on probation,” states Dr. Natalie Tucker, Veterans Court Program Coordinator. “Veterans Court programs have an 80-89% success rate, which shows that these highly intensive court programs work, unlike any other court or justice program to date and they save communities and taxpayers money that would go to pay for legal expenses and jail time.”
Many in this population have suffered the effects of military trauma which can manifest itself in criminal behavior, drug abuse, and mental health challenges. The court believes that developing a veteran’s court will provide this population, their families, our community, and surrounding counties and communities, with a much-needed program and resources to further educational opportunities and rehabilitative treatment.
The program continues to grow and accepts veterans from Pulaski County and other neighboring counties (when space allows in the program). For more information about the program, visit http://gov.pulaskionline.org/pulaski-county-veterans-treatment-court or contact Pulaski County Superior Court.
Submitted by Dr. Natalie Tucker, firstname.lastname@example.org