The new East End Veterans Court at the Southampton Town Justice Court in Hampton Bays convened for the first time on Wednesday, making it easier for troubled veterans to get the help they need.
The Veterans Court is part of the New York State Court System and is the second such court in Suffolk County, according to an announcement from Suffolk County District Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs and Supervising Judge of the Town and Village Courts Glen Murphy. It is modeled after the Suffolk County Veterans Court, presided over by Judge John J. Toomey in Central Islip.
"Hampton Bays is centrally located to the East End towns, and as one of the larger Town Courts in the state, Southampton was ideal logistically to address cases of Veterans facing charges on the North and South Forks, Shelter Island and Riverhead," said Southampton Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni, who will preside over the court.
"Veterans Courts around the country have been quite successful with veterans addressing the underlying reasons for their criminal behavior, and statistics bear that when a veteran defendant accepts responsibility for his actions, dives into the reasons for that behavior with professional guidance and makes the changes necessary, they rejoin their communities as positively motivated, productive citizens," Schiavoni said.
The Veterans Court addresses the specific needs of veterans, providing treatment, rehabilitation services, and monitoring. "At times the impact of the men and women who serve in the United States military can be long lasting and can include unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, and strained relationships. Those difficulties can lead to encounters with the criminal justice system," according to the statement announcing the new courts formation.
If a veteran successfully completes a treatment plan, criminal charges can be reduced.
A defendant's eligibility for his or her case to be transferred to the East End Veterans Court will be determined by the presiding judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and the Treatment Team, headed by Project Director Edward Gialella.
"Programs such as this help victims, veterans, and residents of Suffolk County. We are proud to be part of this effort," Hinrichs said.
Do you think this is a good idea? Tell us in the comments below.