MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Non-violent criminals in Madison County who served in the military can now find help when they are ordered to see a judge. WHNT NEWS 19 attended the county’s first veteran’s court hearing.
Judge Ruth Ann Hall has no problem sending law-breakers to jail. But, she’s found a way to make sure jail is the best option when the wrong-doer is a veteran. She oversees Veteran’s Court.
“I think it’s been long needed. We’re still a process that we are going through. We’re going to be revising the process when we see what works best and what doesn’t,’ said Judge Hall.
Veteran’s Court participants must do a year-long program. The program requires the veteran to check in once a month, meet guidelines and work with a judge-approved mentor.
Judge Hall believes Ray Zimmerman is one of many in the area who fit as a mentor.
“Part of it is my background with the military and understanding the problems soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines go through and the problems they face every day,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman will help make sure the veterans in trouble with the law complete the specialized program. One of the first participant’s arrest might have been a blessing in disguise.
The sailor’s doctor put him on several high dozes of pain killers. The judge’s questions helped him realize how much.
“This young man was headed for disaster. If he had not come to the court system, I don’t know when the problem he was experiencing would have come to light. It was going to eventually kill him,” added Judge Hall.
The purpose of the court is to make sure veterans are treated before they are convicted.
The Madison County District Attorney’s Office is also working with Veteran’s Court. The program will also ensure veterans already in jail are getting the VA treatment they need.