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New federal court program in Western Pennsylvania aids convicted veterans

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Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

A new court-managed program in Western Pennsylvania will help veterans convicted of federal crimes upon their release from prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The program differs from veterans courts in Allegheny and Butler counties that allow veterans with mental health or substance abuse problems to get treatment instead of prison time. This one will help them with housing, job training, transportation and treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems.

Volunteer veteran mentors will provide emotional, psychological and social support. A judge must approve entry into the program, which will be operational by Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day, said U.S. Attorney David Hickton.

In addition to judges and prosecutors, the U.S. Probation Office, Public Defender's Office and Veterans Administration are participating.

Hickton said the plan is to add a pretrial diversion component when the court and agencies identify crimes related to a veteran's problems with reintegrating into civilian society after a deployment. The program then would allow veterans to avoid convictions on such crimes and get treatment instead, he said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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