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The Philadelphia Veterans Court represents the latest problem solving court initiative, in Municipal Court, addressing a holistic Treatment Court approach to dealing with justice involved Veterans. The Judicial leadership in Municipal Court recognizes the tremendous service members of our Armed Forces provide to our Country. This initiative started with the premise of providing Veterans involved in the criminal justice system with a program and services to overcome the challenges they face.
Veterans are directed to representatives of the Veterans Administration, who are on site in one of our courtrooms. The VA staff schedules eligible Veterans for an assessment to determine appropriate needs and levels of care, and directs them to benefits to which they may be entitled. The assessment determines the Veterans suitability for an array of VA programs, including any required treatment (alcohol, drug, mental health or medical) as well as housing, job training and job referrals.
After consultation with a defense attorney, if an eligible Veteran chooses to accept the terms of the offer from the Philadelphia District Attorney to participate in this voluntary program, we pair the VETERAN with a Mentor. The Mentor will assist the Veteran in working toward a successful resolution of the criminal charges, including a change in life choices, so that future contacts with the criminal justice system can be avoided.
Philadelphia Municipal Court recently began a voluntary Veterans Court, geared toward VETERANS charged with misdemeanor offenses. Our goal is to provide the necessary support and services to assist those involved with the criminal justice system with a resolution of the criminal case, as well a change in life choices, so future contacts can be avoided.
Program is to pair the Veteran with a volunteer mentor. The mentor's role is to support the Veteran as he/she navigates through the court and treatment. The mentor is there as an ally and friend, to assist the Veteran through this difficult time. It is our expectation that the shared experiences of another Veteran will be critical in assisting us achieve our goal of leaving no Veteran behind. ALL PEER MENTORS MUST BE A UNITED STATES MILITARY VETERAN (ARMY, MARINE CORP., NAVY, AIR FORCE, COAST GUARD, OR RESERVE OR NATIONAL GUARD.)
The Mentor training is held at The Stout Center for Criminal Justice, 1301 Filbert Street in Center City. Prospective Mentors learn an overview of the Criminal Justice System, Veterans Court procedures as well as insights on how to be an effective listener. Mentors work closely with the Veterans Court Coordinator, under the auspices of the Court.
For more information, email the Veterans Court Coordinator: VeteranMentors@courts.phila.gov
This collaborative initiative between the Court, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Veterans Administration and numerous Veterans agencies, although a bit more challenging than normal criminal case processing, will witness a tremendous benefit to Veterans, as they overcome the burden carried from service to our country, now exacerbated by involvement with the criminal justice system.
We are extremely fortunate to have Philadelphia Municipal Court Judges presiding, who are Veterans, and fully aware of the burdens and the sacrifices these Veterans made.
Lesha Sanders, Veterans Court Coordinator
B07 The Stout Center for Criminal Justice
1301 Filbert Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 683-1584
For general Court information, contact (215) 686-7000.