Veteran’s Court: Free opportunity to learn more on Friday about viable option for veterans guilty of a crime

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Leaders within the state's criminal justice system and other agencies hope people will engage in a special conference focused on veteran's treatment court. In 2013, Madison County introduced this program. It's an option for veterans who need access to some help.

Veterans typically fill Courtroom 3 at the Madison County Courthouse every first and third Friday afternoon of the month. This is time set aside for veteran's court.

"I feel like we owe them," Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall said.

Judge Hall helped launch veteran's court four and a half years ago. She wanted to give veterans a second chance.

"They put their life on the line, they put their life on hold, they left their families and they went to serve. How can I not?" Hall questioned.

Veteran's  court handles cases in which a military veteran is charged with non-violent crimes. To participate in the program, a veteran must plead guilty, apply, then a compliance panel looks at their application and decides if they are a fit for the court. They are also subject to random drug tests.

"They have to have an honorable discharge," Hall added.

During the year-long program, they must meet twice a month at the courthouse and work with a mentor.

"The mentors have the day-to-day contact with them," Hall explained. "They're the ones that week in and week out, check on them and make sure they're doing things, will report to me if there's an issue."

Judge Hall can't be on the ground with the mentors, so she needs progress updates from them directly.

"They're the ones that keep me up-to-date on what's going on because I still have to keep that judge-relationship with them," Hall said.

Hall said the veterans are aware of what they're signing up for.

"At that time, there is an agreement as far as, if they do not complete the program, then this is going to be their sentence," Hall explained.

You can learn more about veteran's treatment court on Friday during the conference. It's happening in the Charger Union Theater at UAH. It begins at 8:30 a.m. The gathering is free and open to the public.