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Continue Veterans Court in Hennepin County Says Two-Year Review

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013

Recommendations that Veterans Court continue in the Fourth Judicial District are reported in a two year review.  The review recommends identifying veterans as they enter the criminal justice system and guiding veterans to entitled benefits.

The “Fourth Judicial District Veterans Court – Two Year Review:  July 2010 – June 2012” reports that during the first two years of operation, 176 defendants were screened for Veterans Court. Of these,

131 were accepted, 31 were not accepted, and 14 chose not to participate. During the first six months after entry into Veterans Court, 83% of participants commit fewer offenses after six months in the program as compared with the six months just prior to entry.

This problem-solving court serves veteran defendants struggling with addiction, mental health issues, and/or co-occurring disorders, and is a hybrid of the drug court and mental health court models.  Participation in the voluntary program requires the consent from the Veterans Court judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and defendant.

Veterans Court promotes sobriety, recovery, and stability through a collaborative and cooperative effort between the Fourth Judicial District Court, Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCCR), the VA Medical Center, VA Benefits Administration, and volunteer veteran mentors.

The most common offenses for participants entering Veterans Court are DWIs (40%) and domestic offenses (20%). The remaining 40% include assaults, terroristic threats, drug possession, property crimes, driving-related offenses, and conduct offenses.

In the first two years, 41 participants graduated from Veterans Court, 8 were terminated by the court for non-compliance of probation conditions, and 7 voluntarily withdrew and returned to Criminal Court for traditional sentencing.  In order to graduate, participants must successfully complete any ordered chemical dependency treatment and/or domestic abuse programming, and work with the VA Medical Center or community based resources on other programming as indicated in their case plan.

Overall, participants are extremely satisfied with the services accessed through Veterans Court in striving to achieve its six goals: to reduce criminal recidivism, promote sobriety, increase compliance with treatment and other court-ordered conditions; improve access to VA benefits and services, improve family relationships and social support connections, and improve life stability.

Judge Charles Porter presides over Veteran Court. Hearings are on Mondays at 2:00 p.m. at the Hennepin County Government Center in courtroom C1659 and are open to the public.  For more information contact Allison Holbrook at 612-348-6302.