ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County will soon have a Veterans Court helping military veterans who run afoul of the criminal-justice system.
The State Office of Court Administration has approved one for Essex County, County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said Monday.
She told the County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee that it will be a specialized treatment court, like the Drug Court they now use to help people with substance-abuse problems.
“We have finally been able to establish a Veterans Court, which is a great feat,” Sprague said. “People are donating a lot of their time.”
The idea behind a Veterans Court is to give veterans in the judicial system a second chance so they can get their lives back, she said.
Although veterans courts have been used in other areas of the state, this will be the first one in the region.
The court is charged with trying offenses involving veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly those diagnosed with service-related illnesses.
The first veterans court was established in 2008 in Buffalo and has been used as a model for others.
ALSO CIVIL CASES
Sprague said they’re in the process of starting a mentoring program for those who appear before the Veterans Court, and County Judge Richard Meyer will preside over the specialized court.
“A big part of it will be the screening process and making sure they (police) ask the right questions: ‘Have you ever served in the armed forces?’” Sprague said.
She said Ticonderoga Town Police are doing that now, and State Police and other law-enforcement agencies operating in the county will be asked to do so as well.
Meyer told supervisors the Veterans Court will also handle civil cases.
“Our Veterans Court is not going to be limited solely to criminal cases. Veterans may be involved in custody proceedings, even child abuse and neglect cases,” he said. “We’re trying to cast a wide net to catch as many veterans as possible and their families.