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Monroe County Veterans Court Experiences Delays

Guidelines that would make a special court for veterans legal in Monroe County are being met with delays in the application process.

Veterans who commit crimes once they return home from conflict overseas often suffer from post-traumatic stress or other war related problems. An alternative court would allow veterans who commit those crimes to be screened for those afflictions which contributed to the violation.

Veterans who meet requirements could be put through a more lenient process and enter a remedial program which would mitigate, or even clear, the crime from their record.

The Indiana Judicial Center crafted a manual which addressed the creation of the new Problem-Solving Court rules in 2011.

Those rules still have not been approved by judges at the state level because of concerns over the mental health of veteran mentors in the program or conflicts over mentor-client relationships.

Special courts for veterans have already been established in several Indiana counties, including Floyd, Porter, Grant and Vanderburgh counties.

Former Army Col. John Tilford says Monroe County plans to adopt some of the aspects of those courts, but he wants to make sure the system is done correctly.

He says it's important to ensure the language of the special court will fully benefit veterans, but crafting that language has caused delays.

“Some poor veteran thinks he’s got a clean record and finds out, 'Oh, your court really isn’t approved. You wasted the last two years of your program',” he says.

Judge Theresa Harper, who oversees the Monroe County Veteran's Court, and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ justice outreach coordinators have been working on that language.

Tilford says Harper has half completed a policy and procedure manual for the proposed veteran’s court as of Jan. 13. He says no timeline has been given for completion.

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