Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild held a press conference at City Hall on Monday to announce the award of a federal grant to the Regional Municipalities Veterans Treatment Court (Veterans Court), part of Tucson’s City Court system.
Veterans Court provides an alternative to jail for offenders facing misdemeanor charges who served or are currently serving in the U.S. armed forces. Program participants agree to undergo treatment, abstain from drugs and alcohol, and work with mentors who are, in many cases, program graduates themselves. All takes place under the close supervision of the court, usually for a six-month period.
In his remarks, Mayor Rothschild noted that, “Veterans may have additional burdens they carry as a result of their service—PTSD, or other conditions.” Veterans Court takes that into account, and tries to help.
At the press conference, two program graduates who are now mentors shared their stories.
Charity McLean grew up in a military family and served over 11 years in the U.S. Air Force. After leaving the military, she struggled with civilian life. Veterans Court got her the help she needed, including treatment for previously undiagnosed PTSD. After graduating from the program, she was offered a job as a mentor. As she said, “I looked at the program and what it did for me and I thought what better way to give back. So now I work as a recovery coach and act as court liaison for people going through treatment.”
Butch Hammond is another Veterans Court success story. Saying he was “pretty lost” when he went into the program, what he found there was hope. Now, after 18 years of sobriety, he says, “I’m kind of like a bulldog when I get a mentee. I don’t let go because I don’t like to see good wasted.”
The federal grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provides $395,000 annually over a period of five years. In addition, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit has been established to support Veterans Court: Southern Arizona Justice for Veterans.
At the press conference, Mayor Rothschild was joined by the two program graduates, Veterans Court founder and Tucson City Magistrate Michael Pollard, Chair of Southern Arizona Justice for Veterans General Jim Riley, La Frontera Arizona President and CEO Dan Ranieri, and Old Pueblo Community Services CEO Tom Litwicki. La Frontera Arizona and Old Pueblo Community Services provide services to program participants.
Veterans Court has served hundreds of veterans and active duty military service members and now has a graduation (program completion) rate of 86%. Six months after graduation, just 1% have been rearrested, and 92% are in stable housing.