By Sgt. Chris HuddlestonApril 2, 2013
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- U. S. Army Pacific Staff Judge Advocate representatives gathered for a presentation to increase their awareness of Hawaii's Veteran's Treatment Court, March 29 at Fort Shafter Flats.
The Honorable Edward H. Kubo Jr., First Circuit Court judge, briefed the soldiers on the policies, procedures and benefits of the Veteran's Treatment Court (VTC) and fielded questions about the program.
"The training serves a two-fold purpose," said Maj. Robert C. Insani, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, US Army Pacific. "To give us an idea of how the program works, how it can benefit our active duty soldiers, and how we can do something similar in our own ranks."
The VTC is set up as a treatment court instead of a punishment court and is an option for any military veteran. Veterans accepted into the program are assigned a peer mentor, volunteer veterans who have been through similar experiences, to help them through the process and provide much needed support.
Although the program is targeted at substance abuse and non-violent offenses, any veteran may apply for VTC and applicants are chosen on a case-by-case basis.
"We have (over 120,000) veterans living here in Hawaii, many of which have come back from war with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries," said Kubo. "Many of these men and women have substance abuse problems or have an addiction to adrenaline. We put this program in place to deal with the problems that arise from these kinds of issues."
Success in the program earns the veteran a dismissal of their charges, while failure leads to a maximum sentence. Veterans are subjected to regular drug tests and must appear before the court every week.
"Before they come to me they are told that this is their last chance," said Kubo. "If they fail, they will receive the maximum penalty. I make sure there is no doubt in their mind that this is their final opportunity.
"We focus on treatment and rehabilitation instead of retribution and punishment," said Kubo. "That doesn't mean the program is easy."
Hawaii's VTC is modeled after the original VTC, established in Buffalo, New York in 2008. There are now nearly 100 VTCs nationwide. Less than 1% of defendants who successfully complete the program relapse into crime or drug use.