Hunterdon and Warren counties have joined the Veterans Assistance Project, a program that assists military veterans who enter the court system. Services to assist veterans who have court cases are now available in every county in New Jersey.
The Veterans Assistance Project is a combined effort of the Judiciary, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services, to provide referrals to existing community services as well as mentors for veterans.
“With the expansion of the Veterans Assistance Project into Hunterdon and Warren counties, the courts’ outreach to veterans now extends into each of the state’s 21 counties,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said.
“We are pleased that veterans and their families, no matter where they live in New Jersey, will be able to receive the services and support they need and deserve if they come into contact with the court system.”
Some veterans return from military service with physical, mental or personal issues and may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to manage the stress of returning to civilian life. The Veterans Assistance Project aims to connect service members who need help with existing programs and mentors to address those issues.
The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will determine which veterans are assigned mentors. The mentors, active and retired veterans themselves, volunteer to work with defendants while their criminal cases are pending and afterward. They see that veterans receive assistance and try to help them avoid behaviors that may lead them back into the criminal justice system.
“The addition of Hunterdon and Warren counties fulfills our commitment to make this program available to every veteran in New Jersey,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the adjutant general of New Jersey who oversees the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and serves as commander of the New Jersey National Guard. "This program is a lifeline to Veterans who need help.”
In Hunterdon and Warren counties, the criminal, municipal and probation divisions are participating in the program.
The Veterans Assistance Project began in Atlantic County in the municipal courts and in the criminal division of Superior Court in December 2008.
More than 780 referrals have been made since the program began.
The program is geared toward providing services to veterans, not diverting veterans from the courts. Veterans who are charged with indictable and non-indictable offenses, other than minor traffic matters, as well as veterans who are on probation, are eligible to participate in the program.
A video about the Veterans Assistance Project can be found at youtube.com/njcourts.