A day in Milwaukee Veterans Treatment Court

Nontraditional approach to justice for Veterans


shadow

Good, bad and somewhere in between. That’s what you can find during a typical Veterans Treatment Court session.

Judge Cynthia Davis and court coordinator Jake Patten.

The Milwaukee County court meets once a week. The judge, court coordinator, attorneys and others will confer for a few hours in the morning before the Veterans appear before the judge.

When they do, there is an amiable, if no-nonsense, atmosphere. While not as rigid and impersonal as typical court proceedings, it is still a court, and defendants must answer to the attorneys and judge.

But one of the advantages of Veterans Treatment Court is its more personal connections, as the judge interacts with the Veterans numerous times as they progress through the program.

“The most rewarding aspects of this type of program is being able to truly get to know the defendants,” said Judge Cynthia Davis, who oversees Milwaukee County’s Veterans Treatment Court. “You get to develop that connection. It’s something as a judge that is very rewarding.”

Here’s a look at a recent court session, conducted virtually due to pandemic restrictions. (Initials are used for the defendants to protect their privacy):

Getting close

MM, who has been in VTC for about two years, appears confident, if a little frazzled, as he faces Judge Davis.

He says his job has become more demanding and a new baby is straining his family life as well.

“It can get a little emotional at times. Sometimes I feel helpless but I’m working through that. A new program at VA is helping me tackle the stress and grief.”

Davis tells MM she’s impressed with the progress he’s made. Her only concern is some missed drug tests. MM is contrite, saying it is sometimes difficult to get to a testing site in time.

“I feel ashamed about those misses. I didn’t miss on purpose. I will have to adapt and adjust.” Davis offers a vote of confidence by setting a graduation date three months hence for MM, as long as he sticks to the plan.

Due to graduate

MJ is very close to graduation. All he needs to do is complete his community service requirement.

After he and Davis chat about his new residence at a Veterans home, she sets his graduation date for the next month.

One of the advantages of the Veterans Treatment Court is its more personal connections.

“It sounds great!” MJ exclaims. “We look forward to celebrating with you,” Davis says.

Making progress

The first thing TH tells Davis is that he’s “perturbed” with himself for not getting enrolled in a VA class and missing a drug test.

However, Davis lauds him for getting the test the next day and reminds him of the importance of sticking with the program.

“Seems like you are on the path to wrapping things up,” Davis says, setting TH’s next court date three weeks hence. “We’ll check in at that point.”

“I’ve come this far; a little bit longer is not going to be too much of a problem,” TH says.

Struggling, but committed

When Davis asks how he is doing, KS says, “OK,” but goes on to list a litany of problems involving his phone, transportation and canceled checks.

He admits he’s not living where he should be and struggling with drug withdrawal.

“I’m very concerned about what’s going on the last 2½ weeks,” Davis says. “I think there are a lot of details you’re leaving out. To be frank with you, if these were normal times, you’d probably be serving a sanction right now.”

Davis tells KS she wants to see him the following week and tells him to write an essay about what has transpired over the past few weeks.

“There are things that need to happen between now and next week,” she says.

“I will do that,” KS says.

Related Coverage

One Vet’s story of how Veterans Treatment Court saved him

Q and A: Veterans Treatment Court

Veterans Treatment Court: Why it’s successful

Author

David Walter

David Walter is a public affairs specialist with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

Comments

  1. Vance L.Larseb    

    I AM IN FINANCIAL I RUIN. DO YOU HAVE THIS PRIGRAM IN FLORIDA. IF YES. WOULD YOU HAVE THE FLORIDA OFFICE CONTACT ME OR GIVE ME THERE CONTACT INFO. I AM GOING THRU WITHDRAWAL ISSUES THAT HAVE EFFECTED MY REASONING. MAJOR DEPRESSION, STATE P.T.S.D. ISSUES WHILE IN FL. VOC.REHAB. THANK YOU FOR YOR TIME AND INFORMATION.

  2. Joe Plata    

    This program works when probation, the court system, and the district attorney are all involved in helping the veteran. I am both a veteran and a licensed drug counselor that saw injustices against the veterans in program. For example, a veteran was furloughed to go home for two days and due to an argument with his spouse, he consumed alcohol. He returned to program that same night and was found positive for alcohol.
    Same scenario with a non veteran, he used cocaine, went AWOL from program, arrested, yet unlike the veteran sent to prison, losing his benefits while incarcerated, the non vet continued in program.
    I didn’t continue my employment after that and other incidents.

  3. Dr. Michael E Hampton    

    This new concept sounds like a potential breakthrough in bringing veterans who have made some bad choices help in making better, even good ones. Does it also help bring help to those they may have offended? Asking because the article did not seem to address that issue and justice needs to address this too.

    1. Valerie Borkowski    

      VA Treatment Court is a TOTAL FAILURE TO PROTECT OUR ABUSED PTSD VETERANS!!!

      I took my chances going to trial over this whole “We care for our Vets” malarkey.

      The minimum reqs are very stringent, and necessary for ONLY those who need the support.

      But for us DV Abused Veterans where the Abuser got the upper hand by 911 EMS DV Fraud calls & with 3 child eye witnesses corroborating my story buried each & every time, but certainly not officially, of course, the DV charges dismissed immediately, yet a bogus Injunction approved (wait, what?) after I filed a Motion regarding his perjury (so, no perjury discussion, no attorney, no defense, no supporting evidence, violations of judicial canons much, your Dishonor?)
      ONE MIGHT BELIEVE THAT THE VETERAN JUDGES WOULD have that “Don’t Mess with our Vets” attitude that might surface for LAWFUL INTERVENTION of any UNLAWFUL MISCONDUCT perpetrated against the Veteran while in the Veterans Treatment Court ON THE VETERAN’S LEGAL BEHALF & PROTECTION……..ahahahahaha!!!

      EVEN WORSE, NO customization or personalization, or vindication, or protection of our Vets, just jump through hoops for nine months, calling every day for random urine screening, community service, psych evals, treatment plan, & even more BS………whether it applies to the Veteran’s personal situation or not.

      I informed my VA Evangelist Motivational Speaker for this VA Court to stop ignoring my counter arguments, telling me that you were whers I am & it was the best opportunity ever, because you did something to deserve it, being so high energy just rolling with his script he pitched too many times before while ignoring your personal grievances with it, and go find out how much the “Judge cares about his Veterans” in his willingness to expose the county corruption instead. ahahahahaha.

      Told him otherwise, I’ll try my luck in trial, because you’re ridiculous by even pitching that shiite to me.

      Ultimately, Court dismissal #7, because Vexatious & Frivolous is not possible at this point, I guess!?

      I’m just an instigating bully and Man beater, and his football/wrestling skills are so easily overcome.

      THANK GOD I DIDN’T COMMIT TO THAT BS!!
      WHAT A MISTAKE I WOULD’VE MADE & PAID FOR!

      THANKS VP VETERAN SUPPORTERS, AN OUTSTANDINGLY OSTENTACIOUS SERVICE YOU FORCE ANYONE INTO WHETHER IT’S APPROPRIATE OR NOT!

      BUT HEY, BEATS JAIL TIME, RIGHT!?
      How dare I mock such an undignified salvation and daily random urine testing!

      NOW THAT’S GRATITUDE FOR OUR COMMENDABLE SERVICE WITH MEDALS, AND HONORABLE DISCHARGE, THEN 23 YRS TOTAL DoD LEADERSHIP.

  4. Wm Borodati    

    My local Va called the police to pick me 4 a crime I didn’t commit/ or was No place near the crime. They forced me to go through Va court & had to plea guilty to something I didn’t even do, had to pay bail bonds man just to get out of jail & when I was incarcerated my Va change my meds ? So I couldn’t get proper med inside

Comments are closed.