Service Never Stops for Veterans Treatment Courts Mentors
By Csaba Sukosd | December 2, 2019
Every November, people are reminded of the sacrifices veterans have made. In Ohio, dozens of vets continue to serve by offering their time, effort, and expertise to help brothers and sisters in arms who've landed in the criminal justice system.
Sixty-five former service members recently took an oath to adhere to the military principle of never leaving a person behind, as they became veterans treatment court mentors. The men and women got their basic training during a two-day boot camp at the Ohio Supreme Court's Specialized Dockets Conference at Ohio State University.
"The mentor component is critical to [these programs]," said Scott Tirocchi, the director for Justice for Vets, which is a nonprofit organization that trains judges, court staff, and previous troops best practices in veteran-themed specialty courts. "They're all volunteers who act to encourage, engage, and empower their mentee."
Established in 2010, Justice for Vets has helped facilitate the growth of hundreds of other specialized dockets around the country. Tirocchi estimated there are more than 450 veterans courts in the United States with 24 of those in Ohio. The first veterans treatment court program in the country was created in 2008.
The skills-building exercises during onsite teaching emphasize active listening, mentor-mentee relationships, and the fundamentals of boundaries and confidentiality. Along with receiving a better understanding of how the specialty docket system works, the mentors - also referred to as battle buddies - become better equipped to aid fellow service members who are struggling with substance use, mental health, and other issues.
"It's important that we provide a path for veterans to live their lives with honor, with dignity, and with happiness, because that says something about our society, our values, and what we consider to be important," said Ohio Supreme Court administrative director Jeffrey Hagler.