You’re Not Alone: Veterans Treatment Court

Ingham County’s Veteran Treatment Court has served 155 veterans, to date
An Ingham County judge is putting guilty pleas on hold in an effort to help military veterans overcome challenges they face when transitioning back to civilian
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:40 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - An Ingham County judge is putting guilty pleas on hold in an effort to help military veterans overcome challenges they face when transitioning back to civilian life.

Through counseling, support groups, and monitored treatment It’s a story of hope and rehabilitation for the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces.

Military veterans return home to a different kind of battlefield. Scars from their service are hidden from the battle within.

“I was 25 years old when I left for the military,” said Anthony Warner. He served four years in the United States Army. He said he did more than fight for his country, his tour of duty allowed him to form strong bonds with peers and learn discipline.

“You learn what real leadership is. When I say real leadership, I mean, someone that would literally give their life for you and you don’t know them.”

It was the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic when Warner was honorably discharged. “Woo—yeah, it was pretty tough.”

The support system he had in the army was suddenly gone, sending him down a bad path. “Losing all those people that care that much about you and then you’ve just got to figure it out on your own, like I said, yeah, you’re really on your own. They don’t give you much after that. Once you’re out, that’s it.”

“In the military they can check you and I didn’t have anyone.” A similar story for Tony Costello. After serving in the Marine Corps, his return home was filled with aggression.

“There was a lot of communication issues I had.”

Like Warner, Costello felt alone after leaving the military. Both veterans landed in legal trouble and in Ingham County’s Veterans Treatment Court. Through the program, instead of incarceration, veterans get a second chance.

“99% of the veterans who go through a Veterans Treatment Court report that their lives have changed for the better,” said Judge Greenwalt. She said “they are substance-free, they’re getting the treatment they deserve for any mental health disorder. Their relationships with their families have often repaired.”

“I had to be able to open myself up -- which I wasn’t used to doing. I had to open up and tell my true feelings if I wanted to get the help that I needed,” said Costello.

“Many of them are apprehensive because, in some instances, they’ve been before judges before and it’s been pretty adversarial. Sooner or later, usually sooner, they realize that this is not that kind of a court,” said John Caterino, Veteran’s Treatment Court Mentor Coordinator. He’s been working with the program since it started back in 2010.

Each participant is paired with a mentor who also served in the armed forces. Like Costello, Warner said that helped restore a feeling of support they haven’t felt since leaving the military. He said he didn’t feel alone.

“So, that was the incredible difference. You come to this court system and you have people that advocate for you. You have a question? You have a mentor you can ask. You are kind of given a direction. You know, they kind of put it on the line for you like the military does it. So, once I seen a path that I could go down in my lost world that was in, that’s what motivated me to really step up and do the right thing and keep moving forward.”

More than a second chance, but a transformation.

“To leave no veteran behind by successfully habilitating... diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need in order to lead a productive and law-abiding lifestyle.”

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