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Fighting to get their lives back together: Butte aims to start treatment court for military veteran offenders

Posted at 3:37 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 18:19:13-04

BUTTE – More veterans returning home from warzones are getting in trouble with the law. And this is prompting the legal system to focus more on treatment rather than punishment.

“We’re seeing more veterans coming into the systems and that’s why these veteran’s treatment courts are so important,” said State Drug Court Coordinator Jeff Kushner.

Butte is in the process of starting up its own veteran’s court. Like Butte’s DUI and drug courts, this court will serve military veteran offenders through an extensive treatment program. The main difference is the veterans court will have staff that can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder that money veterans experience and is often the root of their legal problems.

“And a lot of the things that are seen is domestic violence is high amongst this population and then, of course, criminal offenses associated with drug and/or alcohol use,” said Butte City Judge Jerome McCarthy.

There are already four active veteran’s courts in the state and Butte has the highest populations per capita of veterans in the state.

“They’ve sacrificed with their enlistment and in my opinion, I think it’s the least we can do to help them get back on track,” said McCarthy.

What makes the veteran’s court unique to the other treatment courts is that they pair up the participants with a mentor, a fellow veteran, someone they can relate to and can personally work with them to get through this process.

“It’s a great help to the participant to know that they’ve got somebody that has been through what they’ve been through and can help and support them and confide in them,” said Kushner.

The state will seek federal grants to get the court started in Butte, which could be ready by next spring.

Reporting by John Emeigh for MTN News