COLLIN COUNTY, TX -- Collin County now has a court system aimed at helping veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law. It is a program that has already had success elsewhere in the state. Monday the county kicked off the new program with a celebration at the courthouse. Collin County leaders, local veterans and even United States Congressman Sam Johnson took part. We spoke with the district judge who helped make the Veterans' Court possible for Collin County.
Collin County District Court Judge John R. Roach, Jr. Says there is an urgent need for Veterans' Courts. He has seen it first-hand.
"I started noticing that veterans in my court in all types of cases were having difficulties establishing themselves back in the civilian world," Judge Roach said.
Only combat veterans who suffer from a service related illness, like PTSD, are accepted into the program. Judge Roach says the system holds veterans accountable who have been found guilty of crimes, but at the same time offers them specialized resources to help them overcome problems like drug and alcohol abuse.
"So each and every month that veteran has to come and report to the judge about how they're doing, what their progress is," Roach said.
"It's one thing to punish the individual, but if you just put him in jail and incarcerate him and don't solve the problem he's going to come back out and that's why you got a recidivism rate that's so high," Hillerby said.
Vietnam Veteran Bob Hillerby attended the Collin County Veterans' Court kickoff. He is one of many veterans pushing for the same program in Grayson County.
"We discovered that it's really quite easy to do. It's not an expense to the county. These people are going to go through the criminal justice system anyway," Hillerby said.
Back in October, CBS's Scott Pelley sat down with a Texas judge in a 60 Minutes interview who helped launch a Veterans' Court in Harris County.
"If you just put them out there on probation they're going to fail. If you put them on probation that's tailored to deal with their problems, PTSD and drug use then they'll be successful and not have to go to prison," Harris County Judge Mark Carter said.
After hearing many success stories, Judge Roach says there is no time to waste when it comes to helping our veterans.
In September, more than a dozen veterans showed up to the Grayson County's Commissioners meeting to ask for a Veterans' Court. Hillerby says as of yet he has heard no concrete plans for creating the program.