Madison County now offers veterans court - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Madison County now offers veterans court

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The "diversionary" court is limited to U.S. veterans who are charged with non-violent crimes. The "diversionary" court is limited to U.S. veterans who are charged with non-violent crimes.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

The Madison County Courthouse will offer a veterans court starting this June.

Madison County Circuit Court Judge Ruth Ann Hall made the announcement in her courtroom Friday morning.

The "diversionary" court is limited to U.S. veterans who are charged with non-violent crimes like drug abuse, theft and other misdemeanors.

Hall said rising cases of mental illness and post traumatic stress disorder among veterans cannot be ignored. 

"This is a program that wants to hold people accountable but recognize that many of these folks have a mental illness because of their service to their country," Hall said. "And that mental illness or substance abuse problem as led to their commission of a crime."

The program does not excuse or reduce charges that veterans may face but will provide extra supervision and counseling as they adjust back to civilian life. 

The overarching goal is to prevent recidivist behavior among veterans, according to Assistant District Attorney Jay Town.

"Our support for our troops cannot end the moment they take off their uniform," Town said."It continues for the rest of their lives. And one of the ways we could do that is to provide a mechanism that understands their mental health, their physical health."

The Alabama Administrative Office of Courts helped fund the veterans court program. Hall said they received roughly $80,000 from the AOC but the grant was split three ways among the veterans court, juvenile alternative court and mental health court.

Hall will oversee the veterans court and expects to have the first hearing within the next week or so, possibly by next Friday.

The hearings will see no more than 35 to 40 veterans at a time, according to Hall.

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