BUTTE — This group of veterans once took an oath to defend their country. Now they’ve sworn to stand by fellow veterans who have gotten in trouble with the law by acting as mentors in Butte’s new veterans court.
“We just walk side by side with these guys, like a battle buddy, give them a little pat on the back when they need it and that’s our goal, that’s our mission,” said US Marine Corps veteran and veterans court mentor Mike Vincent.
City Court Judge Jerome McCarthy and District Court Judge Robert Whelan will preside over the court that will take certain veteran offenders who qualify and put them through a treatment-based program that can run up to 18 months. It focuses on treating addiction and mental health issues to prevent them from being repeat offenders.
“The more we can do to help our community the better and I think this is a great example, we’ve worked hard in preparation for this, so we’re ready to go, it’s time for kickoff,” said Bob Green, a Marine veteran, and a new mentor.
Mentors say veterans are better at helping veterans because they can relate to their struggles.
“Most veterans have had some sort of issues or dealt with a lot of things in their time whether it’s during service or trying to transition out to being a civilian again, and everyone screws up and everyone has done things and I think it’s a great program to get them back on a better road,” said Lyndsay Alt, who served in the Marines and is a new mentor.
Veterans court officials say this program isn’t an easy road for offenders to avoid jail time, in fact, they say this treatment court, like their other treatment courts, is going to be very challenging.
“This is harder than going to jail. It’s not an easy program, it’s designed to be hard, it’s designed to be challenging and every time we’ve interviewed an offender, or those participants, excuse me, will tell you that this was harder than just sitting in a jail cell,” said Butte Deputy Country Attorney Mike Clague.
The court is expected to start June 1st and will have about 20 participants by the end of the year.