The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

November 11, 2013

Offenders who are veterans offered chance at treatment

MERCER COUNTY — President Judge Thomas R. Dobson has announced that Mercer County is creating a Veterans Court to assist military veterans.

The first veterans court opened in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008 and similar programs have been growing throughout the nation.

With nearly 1 million veterans, Pennsylvania has the fifth-largest veteran population in the country. Pennsylvania’s first veterans courts opened in Allegheny and Lackawanna counties in 2009. Since 2010, 16 more have been established in Beaver, Berks, Butler, Cambria, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Fayette, Lancaster, Luzerne, Montgomery, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Washington, York and now in Mercer County, bringing the total statewide to 18.

The Mercer County Veterans Court provides veterans the opportunity to pursue appropriate treatment while addressing their legal problems. It will be open to any current or former member of any branch of the armed services, including the Reserves and National Guard. After criminal charges or probation or parole violations have been filed, the case may be referred to the Veterans Court for consideration. All violations are eligible for the program, except homicide and many sex-related offenses.

Participation in Veterans Court is voluntary. Veterans wishing to participate must be evaluated by the Veterans Administration in Butler to determine if they are appropriate candidates.

The decision to permit a veteran to participate is made by a Veterans Court team, composed of a judge, the district attorney, the public defender, a state probation and parole agent, the Veterans Justice Outreach coordinator and a treatment specialist from the VA Butler Healthcare, a Veterans Court coordinator who serves as the administrator, and the county director of Veterans Affairs.

Once accepted into the program, the participnt is assigned a mentor, who is a veteran or an active or reserve duty member of the Armed Services. Mentors are volunteers who offer the veteran advice, personal experiences, recommendations, and guidance. Mentors discuss any ongoing problems with the participant, work to solve those issues, and bring to the court any issues that it can assist in resolving. This relationship fosters a positive attitude in the participant, motivates him or her to accomplish treatment goals, and assures the participant of a support system.

The program is an intensive therapy regimen. Veterans are expected to become involved in and complete numerous activities based on their individualized treatment plan. Typically, that may include Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings or approved alternatives, group and individual therapy, medication, psychiatric and counseling appointments, regular appointments with a Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator, biweekly court appearances, community service, probation appointments, and random drug and alcohol screening.

Participants who violate the rules or fail to achieve their goals may receive sanctions, such as loss of privileges, incarceration, or expulsion from the program. Veterans expelled from the tprogram will be referred back to the original presiding common pleas court judge.

District Attorney Robert G. Kochems noted his office supports the treatment program. “These veterans have served our country, and we now have the opportunity and the duty to be of service to them,” he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • News briefs from April 19, 2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Man admits having child porn

    A Mercer man accused of soliciting and downloading photographs of nude teenage girls pleaded guilty April 8 to sexual abuse of children for possessing child pornography.

    April 19, 2014

  • Police getting new tool to fight crime

    Sharon police working at crime scenes will be putting a powerful new investigative tool to work as soon as next month.

    April 19, 2014

  • Soap box derby finds new home

    The Greater Pennsylvania Super Kids soap box derby for special-needs kids is moving to Sharpsville.

    April 19, 2014

  • News briefs from April 18, 2014

    ‘Nonspecific threat’ prompts evacuation

    Supreme Court refuses to hear couple’s appeal

    Lung Association offering free radon test kits

    April 18, 2014

  • Man admits to choking; rape case is dropped

    A Greenville man on Thursday pleaded down a rape case to simple assault and continued to deny that he committed any sexual crimes.

    April 18, 2014

  • Judge issues tabletop ads injunction against couple

    A judge recently handed down an injunction prohibiting a Sharon man, his wife and two companies associated with the wife from working in the tabletop advertising business within 100 miles of Sharon.

    April 18, 2014

  • Tech waste eyed for new contact

    The current Hermitage solid waste contract was designed to increase recycling while reducing the amount of garbage placed at the curb, and it has lived up to its promise.

    April 18, 2014

  • WaterFire Rekindled

    WaterFire Sharon has chosen themes for its festivals to be held on three Saturdays in downtown Sharon. “Elements” will be the theme July 19, “Origins” for Aug. 23 and “Motion” for the Sept. 27 celebration.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from April 17, 2014

    Man arrested for running from accident scene

    UPMC, Southwest eyeing security at hospital

    Crashes cause diversion of Interstate 80 traffic

    Court supports prison term in chase case

    Woman gets 5-10 years in crash that killed officer

    April 17, 2014

  • Officials pledge support to sewer project

    Publicly declaring their intention to donate county land to the Upper Neshannock Watershed Authority, Commissioners Matt McConnell and John Lechner said there’s no need for Commissioner Brian Beader to worry about the loss of the sewer project at the Interstate 80/Route 19 interchange.

    April 17, 2014

  • Griswold Avenue fire Neighbors tried to save victim

    As flames and thick smoke poured out of a Sharon house Tuesday evening, neighbors rallied to try and save the man who lived there alone.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Woman nabbed, sister sought in assault

    Southwest Mercer County Regional police have arrested a Hermitage woman for breaking into a home in Farrell and beating a woman and are seeking the alleged assailant’s sister.

    April 16, 2014

  • Despite good deeds, man going back to prison

    Linda K. Kretzer had nothing but praise for Raymond C. McKelvey.

    April 16, 2014

  • 15-year-old legal battle returning to county court

    State Supreme Court has let stand a Superior Court decision sending a landmark medical malpractice case back to Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

    April 16, 2014