Court, Community Aid Former Service Members on Heels of Veterans Day
By Csaba Sukosd | November 15, 2019
People go to the Summit County Courthouse for a variety of reasons. In connection with Veterans Day, the common pleas court expanded upon its services as part of a community-based event to help former service members who wound up in the judicial system.
The occasion was created by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones for her Valor Court, a veterans treatment specialized docket.
"Helping them help themselves means for us to develop a plan for them, and to offer them services that they can practically access, and help them move forward in a very simple way that's most effective for them," Judge Corrigall Jones said.
As a way to know what kind of agencies to include at the event, program participants responded to a survey identifying the kind of assistance they needed. The court then established an assembly line of services right next to each other that targeted those respective issues. They ranged from legal concerns and issues with employment, education, housing, substance use, and mental health.
"The amount of resources that they provided in such a short time for me, I didn't even know half of this was available," said Navy veteran Don Lerch, who recently started Valor Court. "To walk in there, and see all those people willing to help you, a lot of those people are volunteering their time. I honestly find it incredible."
The occasion wasn't exclusive to those who served in the armed forces. It also included Judge Corrigall Jones' other specialty court, Summit County Offender Recidivism Reduction (SCORR). Started this year, SCORR also supplies increased support and resources to help those in the criminal justice system rebound from low-level offenses.
"Being a father with a 2-year-old son, I know the mistakes I've made. I don't want to keep making them. I also want to utilize the help to maintain that path I'm trying to stay on," said Kenneth Johnson, a SCORR participant.
While some participants in the programs started with a built-in bond from their respective branches of the military, the veterans and average citizens are now in one platoon with the same mission: to build better futures.
"Being around other people who are seeking the same things that I am, and to be able to even reach out to them, and help guide them, as well as being guided, it makes me feel more of a whole person. It gives me a lot of hope," said Johnson.