The number of veterans courts in Indiana is set to double in the next year. The courts, which focus on providing treatment options rather than jail time, are in the planning stages in Delaware, Lake and Monroe counties.
Unlike traditional courts, participants must be eligible to have their case heard in problem-solving courts. Only candidates, who commit certain offenses, admit their crimes and adhere to established programs — such as counseling services, curfews or drug tests — are eligible. Five such courts already exist in Porter, Grant, Vanderburgh and Floyd counties.
Judge Maria Granger presides over the veterans court in Floyd County.
“The circumstances that bring on these illnesses are unique from what other people who may become involved in the court system are involved with,” says Granger. “Veterans court addresses those unique needs by connecting service members to therapies that can address the specific wounds of war.”
Monroe County is one of the counties in the process of establishing a veterans court. Circuit Court Judge Teresa Harper says those who aren’t eligible to participate in veterans court may fit into another problem-solving court, such as drug court or a mental health court, but says that a separate veterans court is important because their crimes are related to their years of service.
She says veterans may have difficulty relating to someone other than a fellow veteran.
“Vets seem to be very close to other veterans. There is kind of a common theme in post-traumatic stress disorder, which is that no one else understands except vets,” Harper says.
For this reason, other veterans become an integral part of the treatment process through a mentorship program, something Floyd County has used since its inception and Monroe County intends to adopt.
Monroe County is still early on in the application process, but the courts in Delaware and Lake counties could be open as early as the end of the year.