Proposal calls for Veterans Courts in every Pennsylvania county

Written by Tim Lambert and Radio Pennsylvania | Mar 25, 2015 5:20 AM

Photo by AP Photo/Jim Cole

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(Harrisburg) -- A midstate lawmaker is calling for the establishment of Veterans Treatment Courts in all 67 counties.

Democratic Senator Rob Teplitz of Dauphin County has proposed requiring counties to implement the alternative courts, which provide assistance and support for military veterans who commit non-violent offenses.

He calls it an intervention model as opposed to an incarceration model of justice.

"The point is to have specialized personnel from the judge on down, dealing with issues that underly the veteran's commission of a crime," he says. "Instead of dealing with the theft for instance, you're dealing with what it was in that veteran's background and experience that led to that theft."

Currently, 18 counties, including Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Northumberland and York have veterans courts.

Teplitz says along with providing an alternative to prison, these courts seek to provide veterans with the help they need.

"You can get people away from being jailed for a crime but address the underlying cause and get them back on track in their life," he says. "Because their underlying problems --whether its drugs or mental health issues homelessness or other issues are not being dealth with."

York County has been able to document savings in the tens of millions of dollars in the judicial system as a result of its effort and Teplitz is hopeful that could be duplicated statewide.

Pennsylvania has the nation's fifth largest population of veterans.

*This story has been corrected from an earlier version that referred to Senator Teplitz as Representative Teplitz*

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