The Third Branch
By Amanda Todd, Court Information Officer
Participating in a conference on veterans in the criminal justice system in June are, from left, Steve House, case manager at the Veterans Assistance Program at the Wisconsin Veterans home in Waupaca County; Judge Todd W. Bjerke, La Crosse; Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor, Eau Claire; Deputy Chief Judge James P. Daley, Rock County; Judge Elliott M. Levine, La Crosse; District Atty. Scott H. Southworth, Juneau County; and District Atty. John T. Chisholm, Milwaukee County.
More than 100 people at sites in Madison, Milwaukee and Tomah participated in a late June conference designed to help justice system partners develop plans for building specialty court programs for veterans.
Leave No One Behind: Veterans in the Criminal Justice Systembrought together judges, prosecutors, public defenders, treatment providers and county veterans services officers from across the state. Some jurisdictions are just beginning to explore the issues related to veterans in court; others are poised to launch specialty programs for veterans in the next six months.
"We are doing this, number one, because we owe it to the veterans," said Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor, Eau Claire County Circuit Court, "and number two, because this is a unique population that requires a different approach."Counties that may begin programs in 2009 or early 2010 include the Chippewa Valley (Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire counties), the Juneau County region, La Crosse County, Milwaukee County and Rock County.
Proctor and his colleague, Judge Lisa K. Stark, who also participated in the conference, have been leaders in the movement to develop specialty court programs. The Eau Claire judges now oversee programs for drug offenders, people with mental illness and single mothers.
"We know this can work because we have been successful with our other efforts," he said.
Judge James P. Daley, Rock County Circuit Court, also believes strongly in the need for specialty court programs for veterans – so strongly that he is leading the effort to open the first such program in Wisconsin. Daley has already organized a mentor-training program slated for late July, and he hopes to begin handling cases in August.
Also working to develop specialty court programs are judges, state public defenders and district attorneys in Juneau County (home to a large veteran population), La Crosse and Milwaukee.
Leave No One Behind: Veterans in the Criminal Justice System was sponsored by the Wisconsin Public Defender, Department of Corrections, Department of Justice, Veterans' Administration, Department of Veterans' Affairs, and the Wisconsin court system.
VA appoints justice outreach specialist
All Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers recently were authorized to add a new position, veteran justice outreach specialist (VJOS), to their staffs. The Milwaukee VA already has announced its appointee: Jacqueline D. Bethany, Ph.D. Bethany can be reached at (414) 384-2000 x41246.