One supporter says his life was turned around by a compassionate judge
La PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A roundtable discussion took place Thursday in La Pine among supporters who want Deschutes County to create a veterans treatment court.
They are specialty courts with judges who have a better understanding of veterans and their issues, including substance addiction, PTSD and traumatic brain injury, to name a few.
Such veterans treatment courts also can help link veterans with programs, benefits and services they have earned through their service.
Bill Minnix, who hosted the La Pine event, says veterans tend to feel shame when dealing with the justice system.
"Walking into a veterans court, as we saw in the video today, changes that. You don't walk into a courtroom with a black box of shame guilt and fear," Minnix said. "Enclosed within you, you're outside of that box, because you feel that you're protected."
Minnix says there are more than 400 veterans treatment courts in the US.
La Pine Mayor Daniel Richer, who served in the Marines, was among those in attendance.
"If we can take and find out why a veteran is having difficulty re-entering society or encountering problems that they are, prior to them entering the legal system, then I think we're way far ahead," Richer said. "We've saved money and helped society, by making a functional person out of somebody who was not."
Army veteran Kriston Jones also supports the idea.
"When I got out of the service, I struggled with PTSD, and that led me down a dark road with addiction, and ultimately getting in trouble with the legal system," Jones said.
Jones said he was fortunate that the judge in his case showed compassion for him.
"I was scheduled to go to prison, and that judge asked me if I was a veteran, out of nowhere." he said.
Jones said the judge ultimately sent him to a rehab program.
"She was probably the last one to have any kind of faith in me in that moment," he said.
Jones said it turned his life around, and he hopes a veterans court could do the same for others.
"I've been able to get my life back," he said. "I've been able to catch up on taxes. I've been able to get my driver's license back. And it happened in such a short amount of time -- and that's why I think this is really important."