Vet Court Helps Former Servicemen Clean Up Their Acts

SPOKANE, Wash. - Four people graduated from a special Spokane program in district court Thursday that helps military veterans who've ended up behind bars.

None of the people who went through the Veterans Court Program would have spent more than 30 days in jail if they had been convicted. Instead, they went through the program and dealt with the problems that caused them to break the law in the first place.

Veterans Court got its start when judges began seeing too many returning servicemen acting out their post-war experiences in the form of substance abuse and domestic violence.

"Nightmare at night, can't sleep at night, anxious, sweaty palms for no reason, just very anxious, I was a fuse bomb ready to pop," Marine veterans Ladeitrich Jones said.

Jones served in Iraq and suspected he was suffering from PTSD, but his pride prevented him from asking for help

"It took me to go to jail to realize, lets get it together, this is not you," he said.

Jones' domestic violence case was referred to Veterans Court, where he got the counseling and support he needed from groups like Goodwill.

"They have these programs where they can help you with your resume, help you with your interviews, help you with job techniques anything you possibly need, even clothing," he said.

Jennifer Wilcox was also one of four graduates from the program Thursday. The former Air Force captain turned to drinking when she couldn't find a civilian job as gratifying as her work in the military. Vet Court has put her back to work as well.

"It's frustrating to go home and have that happen to a person over and over again. And it's nice to have people who understand and it really is important to have advocacy, and that's what the Goodwill team did for me as well with the job leads and things like that," she said.

While four people graduated Thursday there are 56 other veterans currently participating in the program.

Vet Court is presided over by Judge Vance Peterson, who understands firsthand what the veterans experience when they come home from overseas. He's a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in the Special Forces in Vietnam.

Peterson is on the hunt for a federal grant that could expand the size and effectiveness of the Vet Court program.