Valley News -

Vets fighting drug abuse, other problems finish court program


Last updated 5/24/2019 at 9:38am

RIVERSIDE - More than two dozen military veterans who successfully completed a Riverside County Superior Court program that provides alternatives to incarceration will be recognized on Friday, May 24.

Thirty attendees of the Veterans Court will receive graduation certificates during an afternoon ceremony at the Riverside Historic Courthouse.

This is the court's eighth graduating class since the program began in January 2012.

Superior Court Judge Mark Johnson, who is based at the Banning Justice Center, oversees the Veterans Court, which is convened once a week.

Speakers at the graduation ceremony will include U.S. Air Force Col. Melissa Colburn, commander of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base, and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside.

The Veterans Court program offers resources to veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, contending with substance abuse issues or psychological problems stemming from their deployment to combat zones, or who had experiences that left them scarred at a young age, according to court officials.

In exchange for having their cases heard in the Veterans Court, defendants have to plead guilty or consent to their probation being reinstated. Felons and misdemeanants are eligible to participate, and instead of jail, they're placed in 12- to 18-month-long treatment programs that include group therapy, substance abuse counseling, alcohol monitoring and mental health services.

Participants must be available to make regular progress reports to the judge.

Agencies partnering in the effort include the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, the Mental Health and Probation departments, the Office of the Public Defender, the Riverside Police Department and the U.S. Veterans Administration.

In 2012, the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded a $350,000 grant to help get the program started.


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