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Codington County Veterans Court

Commitment of our Court

Out of respect and concern for all who serve or have served in the armed forces, consistent with principles of protection of the public and rehabilitation, the Codington County Veterans Court is committed to using all available resources to assist and empower justice-involved Veterans in reclaiming their mental and social wellbeing.

Background Statement

Expectation that soldiers returning from deployment will seamlessly transition back to pre-deployment life is simply unrealistic. A growing number of returning veterans suffer from the invisible wounds of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat–related mental illness. Statistics regarding the increasing number of veterans on drug and mental health court dockets bear witness to the fact that left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.

The first court to focus solely on treatment of justice-involved veterans was established by Judge Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York in 2008. The success of Judge Russell’s Veterans Court has gained national attention and created a movement to establish courts based upon the Buffalo model throughout the United States. In 2013, out of respect and concern for our veterans, the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, David Gilbertson, initiated the process of establishing Veterans Courts in this jurisdiction, with the Codington County Veterans Court being one of three pilot programs in the state.

Veterans Courts involve cooperation and collaboration with traditional partners found in Drug and Mental Health Treatment Courts such as the prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment providers, court services, and law enforcement. Added to this interdisciplinary team are representatives of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefit Administration– as well as State Departments of Veterans Affairs, Veteran Outreach Centers, Veterans Service Organizations, Department of Labor, volunteer Veteran Mentors, and other veteran support groups. Veterans Courts admit only those veterans with a clinical diagnosis of a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder.

The Veterans Court model requires regular court appearances as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol). Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle and it is exactly those veterans who need a Veterans Court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans will reoffend and remain in the criminal justice system. The Veterans Court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.

Contact

Contact Lynn Langerock for further information or questions.
Phone: 605-882-5110
e-mail: Lynn.Langerock@ujs.state.sd.us


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