Military veterans are being asked to serve in specialized courts to help their fellow vets who have entered the criminal justice system.
Veterans treatment courts are an effort to not only process nonviolent defendants coming through the justice system, but to promote their sobriety and stability.
To help achieve that goal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is launching an online training program for volunteers to serve as mentors in the courts.
Chief Justice Ronald Castille said it helps if the mentors are also veterans—those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and can relate to the large group of veterans who come before courts right now.
Older veterans are also a helpful presence in veterans court as well, he said.
“It’s always nice to have a senior type person, you know someone that’s been perhaps a Vietnam veteran, or even World War II, although there’s not too many of them,” Castille said.
The first veterans court in Pennsylvania opened in Lackawanna County in 2009, following the model of a court in Buffalo, New York.
Eight such courts are in operation across the state, including Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Plans for opening four more of the courts next year call for one in Bucks County.
Pennsylvania has the fifth-highest population of military veterans in the country.