The Boston Municipal Court (BMC) has recently established a special veterans treatment court session. The purpose of this new offering is to “incorporate rehabilitative and treatment services for veterans by providing them with the tools and services to help them overcome substance abuse issues, alcoholism, mental health issues and emotional disabilities.” If you have spent time in Boston, you are probably aware that many of our area’s homeless are veterans; sadly, mental health issues often land these individuals in court.

The veterans program at the BMC is modeled after a pilot program started in 2012 at the Dedham District Court, which has proved to be successful. In fact, late last year, the first group of veterans to participate in the program “graduated” after completing the approximately 18-month treatment and community integration program. The idea of such special court sessions for veterans is relatively new; the first was established in 2008 in Buffalo, NY, and since then has spread to over 35 states.

Should the program at the BMC prove to be successful, as in Dedham, it is likely to be adopted by other courts throughout the Commonwealth. This program is a positive addition to the current court system, which struggles to address the underlying factors that entangle many in the criminal justice system. As we owe a particular debt of gratitude to our veterans, this new court could not be more timely. Perhaps the rehabilitative services extended to veterans will one day be available to all criminal defendants who are willing and ready for change.

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