First person graduates Floyd Co. veterans' court
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- A New Albany woman found life at home to be much different than fixing construction equipment for the Navy in Afghanistan.
A new veterans court has helped her lose an assault charge after her coping skills failed.
Coming to court needn't be so intimidating for veterans or service members, particularly if they're having troubles with unstructured civilian life versus structured military life.
Just ask Susan Jones, 26, who enjoyed a certificate, handshakes and hugs of congratulations in a courtroom in New Albany Monday.
She's the first graduate of Superior Court #3 Judge Maria Granger's Veterans' Court, in which she finished a year of intense counseling.
Jones was charged with assault upon "a significant other's ex-girlfriend," as she said -- a sign of trouble adjusting from life during deployment to Afghanistan to life at home.
"Over there, it's like you're trying to stay in survival mode. Not too many other than out mentors... understand that," Jones said.
"Her employment, her housing, her life is stabilized. She came in with an agreement with the State of Indiana that if she completed this court successfully then the charges would be dismissed," Judge Granger said.
Volunteer counselors became mentors -- from psychologists to police officers to probation officers -- all of them veterans or with significant experience helping vets.
"You see on TV how the plane lands, they get off, everybody goes home. It's a lot more than that. When you go, it's like your adrenaline switch just stays on. It's hard to turn that off," Jones said.
"It's a problem-solving court. It gets to the underlying issues of what's beneath the surface of that criminal involvement," Granger said.
Issues include alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and learning coping skills at home.
The judge and counselors now are working with another six veterans.
"This is a taxpayer savings overall because we get them at the earliest stage through the help of our sheriff, and we get them into the program if they are eligible and appropriate. We are not spending money in the jail or in the prison," Granger said.
This veterans' court is the third of its kind in Indiana. And Judge Granger's answering calls almost weekly from judges in other parts of the state who want to start one of their own.
Susan Jones will re-deploy to Afghanistan in May; she's to work a six-month tour in the naval reserve.
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