New Jersey is considering a pilot program to allow veterans accused of nonviolent crimes to get treatment instead of sending them to jail.
Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, a former Army sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, said some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder get into trouble because they have a tough time readjusting to civilian life.
Under the bill he has sponsored, the judge and the prosecutor in the veterans court program would also be veterans.
“It really is going to be good for the veteran as far as being able to relate with somebody who has been through it and really kind of opens their eyes,” said Andrzejczak, D-Cape May.
He hopes the program could help give veterans a sense of purpose when they return to civilian life.
“It’s going to be helping the veterans get back on the right path, avoid all of the negative things that can be tied in with getting in trouble — and stopping it before it gets any worse,” Andrzejczak said.
The veterans court would keep track of participants in the program to make sure they’re getting proper medical and mental health treatment from the VA.
New Jersey is one of only 15 states in the country without a veterans court, according to Thomas Roughneen, an attorney and a reservist in the New Jersey National Guard.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey have already implemented the special courts.