Mercer County Opens New Court Specifically For Veterans Issues
MERCER, Pa. – Mercer County now has a court devoted to assisting veterans who find themselves involved in the criminal justice system.
The Mercer County Veterans Court is a treatment court providing veterans the opportunity to pursue appropriate treatment while productively addressing associated legal problems.
The court will be open to any current or former member of any branch of the United States Armed Services, including the Reserves and National Guard.
After criminal charges or probation or parole violations have been filed against a veteran, the case may be referred to the Veterans Court for consideration. All offenses are eligible for participation in the Veterans Court treatment program, except homicide and many sex-related offenses.
Participation in Veterans Court will be voluntary. Veterans wishing to participate must be evaluated by the Veterans Administration in Butler to determine if they are appropriate candidates for the Veterans Court treatment program.
The decision to permit a veteran to participate in the treatment program is made by a Veterans Court Team.
Once accepted, the participating veteran is assigned a Veteran Mentor, who is either an active or reserve duty member of the U.S. Armed Services or veteran of the U.S. Armed Services.
The relationship promotes and fosters a “can do” attitude in the participating veteran, motivates him or her to accomplish the treatment goals, and assures the participating veteran that he or she is not alone-that the Veteran Mentor and the Veterans Court Team are there for him or her.
The Veterans Court treatment program is an intensive therapy regimen. Veterans are expected to become involved in and complete numerous pro-social, treatment-oriented activities based on an individualized treatment plan.
If a participating veteran violates the rules of the Veterans Court treatment program or fails to timely achieve the programs periodic goals, he or she may receive sanctions, such as loss of privileges, incarceration, or expulsion from the Veterans Court treatment program.
Veterans expelled from the treatment program will be referred back to the original presiding Common Pleas Court Judge for appropriate disposition.
District Attorney Robert G. Kochems noted his office is also supportive of the Veterans Court treatment program. “These veterans have served our country and we now have the opportunity and the duty to be of service to them,” he said.
With nearly one million veterans, Pennsylvania has the fifth largest veteran population in the country.