“My counselor helped me solve internal struggles while my mentor provided a friend like I’ve never had.”Fayette County VTC Participant
November is National Veterans & Military Families Month. To honor the sacrifices made by members of the military and their families, we are highlighting the work of Veteran’s Treatment Courts (VTC): a type of court designed to serve those who answered our country’s call to service. The courts work closely with veterans to connect them with community resources and support, diverting them away from the criminal justice system and allowing them to restart their lives.
In Fulton County, we learned about a Veterans Court participant with a young son. She came to the court after being indicted for arson stemming from a domestic situation. Over the first eight months in the program, she struggled with addiction and her domestic situation worsened. Through perseverance (both of her own will and from the Fulton County Veterans Court team), she has now been clean for 18 months, lives with her son, and is gainfully employed. She graduated from Fulton Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk’s Veterans Court this October.
In Fayette County, State Court Judge Jason B. Thompson presides over the Veteran’s Treatment Court. We spoke with the Fayette County team about their VTC court:
Judge Jason B. Thompson’s Fayette County Veteran’s Treatment Court Team
Why did you start a veterans court?
After starting the DUI/Drug Court in 2015, Judge Jason Thompson went out into the community to discuss the Accountability Court programs. Each time, he was asked what we could do to support our military families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2014-2018, Fayette County’s Veterans population made up roughly 10% of the total county population. With that in mind, the Veteran’s Treatment Court began with the hopes to better serve those who dedicated their lives to serving us. The overall goal has been and will continue to be, divert Veterans from the traditional justice system to give them treatment and tools for rehabilitation and readjustment.
Can you tell us a success story that has stayed with you?
Despite COVID-19, Fayette County’s VTC program has been a success. Functional treatment, testing, and accountability programming have provided our participants with the skills and support they need to move forward in their personal and professional lives. According to a VTC participant, “My counselor helped me solve internal struggles while my mentor provided a friend like I’ve never had. The most important part of this program is that it has filled my life with people who genuinely care and want to see me have a wonderful life.” Watching participants achieve their goals and truly prosper assures the community that putting in the time, effort, and funding creates meaningful change around us all.
What do you think the future is for veterans courts?
The future for VTC is bright; Fayette County’s program has successfully utilized a team made up of non-profit leaders, VA personnel, lawyers, counselors, and law enforcement to provide a comprehensive plan for each Veteran that comes into the program. Beyond reaching more Veterans, the objective for the future is to distinguish similarities and differences between other programs to establish and recognize the best court models going forward.
This November, the Georgia Courts Journal would like to thank veterans for their service, veteran families for their sacrifice, and the communities that support veterans when they need it.