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Yet Another State Is Pushing To Bring Back Special Courts For Veterans
Veterans accused of crimes often share similar trauma from their time in the service.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. Military sexual assault. Brain injuries.
Special courts are gaining traction nationwide to help these veterans avoid being repeatedly arrested by combining treatment with accountability.
That’s why Benton Country, Washington, prosecutor Andy Miller and a team of court officials and veterans advocates plan to ask county commissioners to tap a public safety fund to recreate Spokane County’s Veterans Treatment Court in Benton and possibly Franklin counties.
The courts — which take up nonviolent misdemeanor cases — work like other treatment-based courts used in Benton and Franklin counties by focusing on specific types of offenders with common issues.
The approach could help military veterans avoid losing their families and jobs if they’re charged. The Benton County jail already handles about 40 veterans a week, and the U.S. Veterans Administration reports about 3,000 homeless veterans in the Mid-Columbia.
Advocates say they build community among veterans and help them tackle issues unique among those who have served.
Eric Andrews, a civil deputy in Miller’s office, says the special courts are needed and they work. He’s an 11-year Navy veteran who previously worked in the Spokane program.
In that model, current and former military service personnel charged with crimes such as drunk driving, domestic violence, and petty theft are eligible to have their cases diverted to the veterans court.
The court can require defendants to participate in veteran-oriented treatment programs and comply with other orders. Cases would be heard by District Court Judge Dan Kathren.
However, it would focus on the root causes of veteran crime, such as PTSD, sexual assault, brain injuries and other issues.
Spokane marries its judicial system with a unique nonprofit called the Spokane Veterans Forum. The forum is a community of veterans that provides mentors and friendship to veterans charged with crimes.
The Benton County model will include a similar approach. Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant and Pasco city prosecutor Jim Bell have participated in the work sessions, signaling possible interest on the north side of the Columbia River.
Miller wants to tap the $14 million to $16 million Benton County has banked thanks to a 2014 voter-approved public safety sales tax intended to support law enforcement, courts, and crime-fighting initiatives.
The 0.3 percent sales tax supports 35 law enforcement officers, mental and drug courts, and other activities.
But it’s not being fully spent.
The county commission is soliciting proposals from county agencies with a public safety focus and, separately, from outside nonprofits that run gang and crime prevention programs.
April 20 is the application deadline for nonprofits.
Money won’t be available until 2019.
Treating veterans with respect while requiring treatment works, said Jerry Gutman, who oversees mentor programs in Spokane. The recidivism rate for veterans court defendants fell to between 12 percent and 14 percent in the past three years.
“What is making this happen is veteran-to-veteran connections,” he said.
Andrews said it’s common to see defendants from Spokane’s court return as mentors and to give back to the community, much the way they served their country.
“You just see what an impact this has on people’s lives, to make them whole again,” Andrews said. “I can’t think of a better way to repay a service member for what our country has asked us to do.”
©2018 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.
Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.
"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."
That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.