News Item
Ramsey County Veterans Treatment Court Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2024


The Ramsey County Veterans Treatment Court will celebrate its 10-year anniversary at Noon on Friday, Feb. 23, with a graduation ceremony and celebration at the Ramsey County Courthouse.

“This truly is a shining moment,” said Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro. “The success of Ramsey County’s treatment court is a testament to the collective collaboration of myriad partner organizations and the hard work of the veterans who participate.”

The Ramsey County Veterans Treatment Court launched in 2013 to promote public safety through enhanced supervision and individual accountability. It has done this by connecting eligible veterans who have been charged with a crime to services that can address underlying problems they may be experiencing as a result of their military service. The court works with a bevy of partners to provide those services, including the Ramsey County Veterans Services, Community Corrections, Social Services, and County Attorney’s offices, as well as the Veteran’s Administration, the St. Paul City Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Public Defender, Neighborhood Justice Center, JusticePoint, and other community partners.

“It’s an incredible program that changes lives,” said Ramsey County Treatment Court Judge Nicole Starr. “This is a collaborative approach to help veterans overcome obstacles that can seem insurmountable—together, we work to ensure that each veteran is safe, sober, and free. And when they graduate, we owe our success to each veteran who trusts us to help support their journey.”

Veterans Treatment Court participants may be removed from the program if they do not comply with program requirements or if they reoffend while in treatment. To date, the Ramsey County Veterans Treatment Court has graduated 66 veterans.

Paul Harris is one of those graduates. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he participated in the program after receiving a DWI. He firmly dispels any notion that Veterans Treatment Court is “easy.” If anything, he said it may have been the hardest thing he’s ever done. But he credits the court with helping him make changes that have resulted in a life of sobriety and success.

“You have to forgive yourself, and the court helped me immensely in that area,” he says. “I’ve been sober for three years now and I’m really happy with the way things have gone for me.”

Veteran-volunteer mentors are critically important to the success of participants like Harris. As fellow veterans, these mentors understand the issues unique to those who participate in the program. They encourage, guide, and support participants as they progress through the program and are key to the participants’ success.

“Mentors have a shared bond of service that gives them a unique understanding of military related trauma and credibility to act as battle buddies to help them move on with their lives," said Ramsey County Board Chair Trista Martinson, a veteran who served on active duty for 16 years and also has volunteered as a treatment court mentor. "We are grateful to all the Veterans Court mentors who have volunteered their time to listen, offer support, and help guide others through the court process.” 

Ramsey County Veterans Services is always looking for additional veteran mentors and has produced two videos to highlight the importance of these volunteers. For more information on becoming a veteran mentor, go to the Ramsey County Veterans Treatment Court website.