In all her years on the bench, King County District Court Judge Johanna Bender recalled just one time that she broke down and cried in her private chambers. It was after she had to send a particular veteran to jail when she had hoped for a different outcome for him.
On Thursday, the judge told a packed courtroom assembled for a Veterans Court graduation she might shed tears again, this time in celebration of the same vet who has now successfully completed the requirements of the Regional Veterans Court’s treatment program.
Too many who return from military service suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental health issues, or struggle with drug or alcohol abuse issues. The philosophy of the court is that those who served our country deserve our help when they return to civilian life.
Regional Veterans Court can serve as an alternative to incarceration for misdemeanors and some felonies. Instead of convictions, the goal is to get the veteran the help they need through treatment and support services. Their progress is monitored through random tests for the presence of alcohol and other drugs and through regular interaction with the court and probation staff.
Regional Veterans Court also provides a place where veterans can be linked to benefits and services they are entitled to through the Veterans Health Administration or the State Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Regional Veterans Court team is composed of the judge, defense attorneys and defense social workers, prosecutors and a victim advocate along with mental health specialists, a program manager, and veterans specialists.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Pete DeSanto with two Veterans Court graduates.
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