Veterans Court now available for veterans charged with federal c - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Veterans Court now available for veterans charged with federal crimes in Montana

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Veterans Treatment Court celebrates graduation in Great Falls (March 3, 2015) Veterans Treatment Court celebrates graduation in Great Falls (March 3, 2015)
Judge Greg Pinski of the Eighth Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Judge Greg Pinski of the Eighth Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court
HELENA -- Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen, Chief Montana District Court Judge Gregory Pinski of Great Falls, and Montana's U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter announced on Thursday that qualifying veterans charged with federal crimes are now eligible to participate in Veterans Court, an alternative to prison.  

The announcement results from an agreement that allows qualified veterans in the federal system to enroll in the Montana Eighth Judicial District Veterans Court, which has been operational since 2013 for veterans accused of state and local crimes. 

"Judge Greg Pinski of the Eighth Judicial District has created a model Veterans Court,” said Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana L. Christensen in a press release. 

“The Montana District Federal Court welcomes the opportunity to be a partner in this effort, and to be able to provide this option to veterans who have been charged with federal crimes." Pinski explained, “Too many veterans are winding up in the criminal justice system suffering from mental illness, cognitive impairment and substance abuse.  They cannot cope with the invisible wounds of war on their own, and the Veterans Court gives them an opportunity for treatment and restoration. The collaborative approach between the Montana federal and state courts to treating veteran offenders is unique and it will greatly expand treatment opportunities for Montana's justice-involved veterans.” 

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Veterans Court nearly $300,000 to build and expand the program. 

The DOJ says that Veterans Court reduces crime, enhances public safety, saves taxpayer money, and helps people by facilitating sobriety, treating mental health conditions, improving social relationships, and promoting lifelong stability for veteran offenders in the community. 

Cotter said, "Veterans are returning to Montana every day. We look forward to utilizing Veterans Court in federal cases so that qualifying veterans can get structured treatment and return to their lives and families in Montana.” 

Veterans Court requires enrollees to receive professional counseling and treatment for issues involving substance abuse, mental health, disability, finances, and other difficulties, including those related to their military service.  

They must also abide by strict conditions, follow rigorous treatment plans, and attend scheduled hearings before a judge. 

Veterans accused of federal crimes will now have the same opportunity to enroll in the program as part of their federal cases if they meet certain criteria and have not already been convicted of violent or sexual offenses. 

A Department of Veterans Affairs study determined that from 1999 through 2010, between 18 and 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States. 

“The suicide rate alone is justification to help justice-involved veterans,” Pinski emphasized. 

Several weeks ago, several Montana veterans became the first to graduate from the Veterans Court in Great Falls. 

"Not one of these veterans deserved to be incarcerated. They needed help they needed help with the substance abuse issues they needed help with mental health disorders those are the issues that brought them into the criminal justice system," Pinski said. 

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