Beginning next month, qualified veterans charged with committing misdemeanors while on Fort Hood will be eligible to participate in a pilot program designed to provide an alternative to a federal conviction announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.
The Fort Hood Federal Veterans Treatment Court, "Veterans Endeavor for Treatment and Support" or "VETS," will work to divert veterans with service-connected mental health or substance abuse disorders out of the court system and into enduring treatment solutions with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This initiative will be supervised by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and run by United States Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske with the support of United States Attorney Durbin.
This new program at Fort Hood is believed to be the first of its kind on a U.S. Army installation. It will provide a defendant-veteran whose deployments led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress manifesting in substance abuse which results in a DWI/DUI the opportunity to avoid a federal conviction for that offense if he or she completes a 12-18 month treatment and supervision program with the Veterans Affairs and the Court.
VETS requires enrollees to engage in intensive multi-stage 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 rules of conduct, follow rigorous treatment plans, and attend mandatory scheduled hearings before Judge Manske.
The treatment court model also builds upon the Department of Justice 'Smart on Crime' initiative to bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism
“This initiative, directed at veterans, will serve justice by directing them to available resources. We especially hope to provide alternatives for criminal conviction for veterans whose military service may have contributed to their current conditions and conduct,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr. “We hope this program will lead the way for similar initiatives to develop in other federal jurisdictions near major military bases where veterans congregate.”
VETS is a joint partnership carried out by the United States District Court, United States Attorney's Office, and Pretrial Services Office for the Western District of Texas, the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Army III Corps and Fort Hood, and the Military Veteran Peer Network operating with "Bring Everyone in the Zone."
The initiative was inspired by examples of similar programs in state jurisdictions and the Department of Justice. More than 160 of these courts exist in state and federal jurisdictions nationwide.