Ten years ago, Buffalo became the first city in the nation to introduce a court specifically for veterans who, through support and treatment, could overcome issues that put them in legal trouble and were preventing them from living lives as productive civilians. Now, Buffalo's Veteran Treatment Court serves as a mentor for other communities looking to establish the same.
Buffalo's Veteran Treatment Court was founded in 2008, modeled after drug treatment courts which were already in existence. Beside service veterans exclusively, Judge Robert Russell notes that another fundamental difference is thar drugs do not necessarily play a part in every criminal case brought before him.
"Those challenges may include mental health, substance dependency, it could be traumatic brain injury," said Judge Russell, who has presided over Veteran Treatment Court in Buffalo since its inception. "Some who have served in combat may be suffering from those invisible wounds of war."
Judge Russell says the men and women who were willing to put their lives at risk on behalf on the nation deserve the help, if needed, to get their lives back in order.
Buffalo's treatment court has since become a model for other communities looking to get their own system started. Partnering with the US Justice Department is the organization Justice for Vets, which in collaboration with the DOJ has desginated Buffalo a "mentor court."
"It is one of the sites where visitors are welcome to come in and observe," he said. "We'll also discuss how Veterans Treatment Court is set up and designed. In addition, I've also had the privilege to assist Justice For Vets nationally in doing training for other communities interested in establishing a veterans treatment court in their region."
Justice For Vets recently named Scott Tirocchi its new director and has announced applications are now available for treatment court training in 2019.