Comradery of veterans court helps participants succeed

Written by Rachel McDevitt | May 21, 2018 5:13 AM

Judge William Tully addresses attendees at a Dauphin County Veterans Court graduation on May 18, 2018. (Photo: Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- More than half of people who get out of prison in Pennsylvania reoffend within a few years of their release.

Some counties have turned to specialty courts to reduce recidivism, and some are proving especially effective.

Friends, family, and mentors recently gathered to congratulate five graduates of Dauphin County Veterans Court.

The program gives former military members with an honorable discharge the chance to avoid jail time for their offenses in favor of community service and treatment for any mental health or substance abuse issues.

Judge William Tully, who presides over the court, said the program addresses the root of the veterans' problems. 

"In a way, a lot of the difficulties many of them have are related to their service, whether it's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse, all those things that may have developed during the stress times, and then when they leave the service they lose that sense of purpose, being part of something bigger than themselves," Tully said. 

Tully said the common bond between veterans helps them through the program.

"That comradery, espirit de corps is, I think, the magic ingredient that really makes it click and really has the success rate where we don't have the recidivist rate that we have in any other court," he said. 

The graduates now enter into a six-month supervision period to help them maintain their progress.

A few said they hope to return to the program--as mentors to future participants.

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