Hamilton County Municipal
To divert veterans from the traditional criminal justice system to a treatment based court to rehabilitate and assist veterans in leading a productive and law abiding life.
Ohio has over 900,000 veterans, the sixth largest population of veterans among the fifty states. Veterans returning home after discharge find it difficult to transition back into civilian life since many suffer from silent wounds of war such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Most often these veterans did not have a criminal history before their tour of duty. Most of them served in a combat zone, deployed in multiple tours, and received the Purple Heart. Many are homeless, unemployed, disconnected from family, have not applied for any benefit assistance and have not sought any form of help through the Cincinnati VA Hospital even though they are eligible for services. Many veterans self medicate with alcohol or drugs. Some are suicidal.
Hamilton County Veterans Court brings the multitude of the services and resources from our community to the courtroom to assist the veteran with mental health care, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, medical, housing, transportation, educational and employment resources, and veteran’s benefits.
Judge Melissa Powers
As Judge Powers saw veterans returning from the Iraq/ Afghanistan war in her courtroom often with the “thousand yard stare”, she realized something more must be done to help the courageous and honorable young men and women. She became committed to assist our local veterans.
Two years in the making, Judge Powers held the first Hamilton County Municipal Veterans Court on April 5, 2012. The Veteran Treatment Court helps criminal defendants, who are veterans, deal with trauma and other issues resulting from warfare with the aim of providing healing, support, and a second chance. It does excuse the veteran for committing criminal offenses. Rather, the level of commitment to the judicial supervision of treatment is more stringent than traditional based probation.
How does it work?
All veterans may be eligible. Participation in Vet Court is completely voluntary. If the veterans agrees to participate, they accept the level of accountability in Veterans Court far exceeds that of the regular docket. They accept that they will engage in treatment, to be subject to intensive judicial supervision, and to perform in compliance a treatment plan that was developed by a team of specialists.
The treatment team, consisting of the Veteran Service Commission, the Vet Center, mental health specialists, pre-trial services, peer mentors, Veteran Justice Outreach Officer, probation officer, law enforcement, public defender, prosecutors, vocational rehab specialist, in conjunction with the professional medical and psychological care providers at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center.
In addition, the team educates and assists the many veterans who are unaware of the eligibility for VA programs and services. Veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, or other issues often require additional assistance to enroll for benefits they have earned.
Coming Home by Peter Bronson in Cincy Magazine
Now that they've served our country, what are we doing to serve our returning veterans?
On the second floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse, behind an ordinary door marked Room 240, something strange happens on Thursdays at 2 p.m. Compared to other courtrooms, it’s over the rainbow and through the looking glass—a buy-the-world-a-Coke, Strawberry Fields utopia where offenders get hugs from the judge and applause from prosecutors, police and visitors.
“You’ve been doing great,” Municipal Judge Melissa Powers tells a guy in a golf shirt and khakis who went from boozer to businessman. “We’re all quite pleased.”more>
Click here to read the complete article on Cincy Magazine.
Click here for a PDF of this article.
Special court assists veterans - Goal is to coordinate treatment programs
Kieran Carroll brought all of his limbs home with him when he returned from his military service in Iraq, despite having one of the most dangerous jobs possible.
A 2009 drunken driving charge landed him before Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Melissa Powers. She looked at the baby-faced Carroll and saw a broken soldier who didn’t know how to fix himself. She decided to help.
Click here to read the complete article at Cincinnati.com online.