Custom court solution for veterans close to launching in two Utah counties

- SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- (ABC 4 Utah) – A new program to help veterans find their way through the state court system is gaining ground in Utah.

It's called Veterans Court and like Drug Court, it has a specific goal.

To hold veterans who commit crime accountable by helping them overcome the unique challenges they face as a result of their service.

The transition from the battlefield to civilian life isn't an easy one.

"A common combination of problems that veterans present when they come back to Utah, to society is substance abuse plus PTSD," said Assistant State Court Administrator, Rick Schwermer.

In the criminal justice system that equals high recidivism rates.

That's why Schwermer and other members of the Veterans and Military Affairs Commission are pushing for Veterans Court at the state level.

It identifies high risk, high need offenders who struggle with the traditional court system and offers a tailored solution.

That solution includes a trained mentor to walk them through the process and build a relationship.

The priority is placed on substance abuse and mental health needs.

"People come through the criminal justice system over and over and instead of just processing the case you try to intervene and stop the problem and solve the problem," said Schwermer.

Veterans Court is close to launching in Utah and Salt Lake counties.

Commission Chair, Senator Peter C. Knudson introduced the idea a couple of years ago after meeting with a judge that presides over Veterans Court at the federal level.

"As we talked I could see the value and the benefit for this. A lot of veterans have serious issues and they are fearful of going into a regular court," said Knudson.

Veterans Court sticks to the standard of accountability, so it's not a get out of jail free card, but a step on the road to rehabilitation.

"We owe our very best efforts to our returning service members and that's why we want to do these veterans courts the right way," said Schwermer.

The final details are still being worked out, so we are a month or two away from the first veteran going through the system.

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