Though their incarceration rate is lower than that of the civilian population, veterans struggling in their life after service sometimes wind up on the wrong side of the law. In the past, that's meant one thing – jail time. But in Johnson County, Kansas, an alternative has been introduced that could, with time, have ramifications nationwide.
According to The Kansas City Star, the first of its kind Veterans Treatment Court will supervise and support troubled veterans through a diversion program with the assistance of a court staff and mentors.
"The idea is to evaluate those people to try to identify those with needs, and what we are looking for is people with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, with depression, with substance abuse issues," Judge Timothy McCarthy told KSHB in Kansas City. "These aren't the most serious crimes, these are lower level felonies and misdemeanors."
McCarthy was primarily responsible for the court's creation. The Star reported that he researched what would be required to establish it, then organized it, and now, he will hear cases involving veterans every other Wednesday afternoon.
Two main goals motivated McCarthy – getting veterans the help they need, and reducing the number of people serving time for low-level offenses. To avoid a jail sentence, accused veterans must commit to a 12- to 18-month program filled with drug and alcohol testing, court appearances and case-specific treatments.
There have already been some success stories emerging from the courtroom. One of them comes from Joshua Boley, a former Marine who deployed three times in four years.
"It definitely saved me, and that's why I definitely believe it's going to save a lot of veterans' lives," Boley told KSHB. "I was in the regular court prior to this, and it didn't help me at all. I just kind of kept getting worse."
Now, surrounded by other veterans with experience undergoing the same trials, Boley and others like him have found a new path.