• Judge organizes program for local veterans to get 2nd chance, stay out of jail

    By: Berndt Petersen

    Updated:

    A Cherokee County judge said his court was crowded with veterans, many with drug dependencies. So, he organized a special program to help keep them out of prison.

    State Court Judge Dee Morris said it happened over and over and over again.

    "I kept seeing people come through my court. One of the questions you always ask is do you have any mental or emotional disabilities when they're taking a plea," Morris told Channel 2's Berndt Petersen.


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    The judge said the answer was almost always yes, and the defendants were almost always military veterans. Some had now committed serious crimes.  

    But rather than simply sending them to prison, the judge oversaw the creation of a Veterans Treatment Court.

    It's 18 to 30 months of drug treatment, emotional support, housing and jobs for people who had fallen through the cracks.

    "Probably the most supervised program in the state.  They'll see somebody-- during the first phase of the program-- between 30 and 36 times a month," Morris said.

    The judge said many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder related to their military service.  The very first veterans to come through the program graduated Monday night.  

    The judge told Petersen in one case in particular, the change has been dramatic.

    “He's a father to his children, and a husband to his wife.  He was not before.  It's night and day.  It's my favorite thing I get to do,” Morris said.

    The judge said after graduation, both veterans now had clean records.

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