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District Attorney’s Office Receives Grant to Study Veterans Court

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s Office has received a grant to study the feasibility of implementing a specialty court that would steer some military veterans who have committed crimes to drug, mental health, and other treatment, instead of jail. The initiative, spearheaded by Montgomery and District Judge Raymond S. Childress, will bring together a team of local officials and volunteers for three days of training, beginning Aug. 17.

“Our veterans have unselfishly served our country, and they deserve our best efforts,” Montgomery said. “We’ve assembled a very talented, specialized team to help us determine whether Veterans Court would be a useful tool in the 22nd Judicial District.”

The training will be held at the District Attorney’s Office in the Justice Center in Covington and will include 10 participants, representing the 22nd Judicial District Court judges (St. Tammany and Washington parishes), District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s Office, criminal defense attorneys, Louisiana Probation and Parole Office, veterans’ organizations and service providers that offer drug treatment, mental health care, and assistance to veterans. Among the topics that will be discussed are: “The 10 Key Components of Veterans Treatment Court,”  “Development of Veterans Treatment Court Structure, Target Population, Entry Process, Phases and Court Requirements,”  “Psychopharmacology, Combat Operational Stress Reactors, and Responding to Participant Behavior,” and “Community Supervision, Ethics and Confidentiality, and Sustainability.”

The federal Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the grant in partnership with the non-profit Justice for Veterans organization through a competitive application process. This is the first step toward establishing a Veterans Court in the 22nd Judicial District. The district already offers several other specialty courts, including two sections of Adult Drug Court, Sobriety Court, Re-Entry Court, Behavioral Health Court, and Family Preservation Court.

The members of the Veterans Court planning team include: Judge Childress; Darrell Sims, Assistant District Attorney; John Wells, a criminal defense attorney who specializes in military matters;  Christopher Russell, Truth 180 counseling program; Shonni Oswald, 22nd Judicial District Probation Office Supervisor; Stephen Lucia, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office; Lane Carson, veterans advocate; Matt Cole, St. Tammany Office of Veterans Affairs; Meredith McLendon, Louisiana Probation and Parole Office; and Dr. David N. Khey, a restorative justice professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.