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For immediate release: February 17, 2009
For more information contact:
At the Judiciary: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig 609-292-9580
At DMAVA Col. James Grant, Joint Chief of Staff 609-530-7033
or CW2 Patrick Daugherty, Public Affairs Officer 609-530-6939, 609-847-6093 - cell

Veterans Assistance Project Begins in Union County

A program to assist military veterans who enter the court system has begun in Union County.

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.

The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will determine which veterans are assigned mentors. The mentors, active and retired veterans themselves, work with defendants while their criminal case is pending and afterward.

Mentors also see that veterans receive assistance and try to head off the veteran's return to the criminal justice system on another offense.

A training session for prospective mentors will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 18 for mentors who will participate in the Veterans Assistant Project. The session will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the sheriff's conference room at the Union County Courthouse, 2 Broad St. in Elizabeth. Participants will learn about the mentor's role in the program and will take part in a mentoring exercise.

"Adjutant General Major General Glenn K. Rieth and Chief Justice Stuart Rabner fully understand the consequences of young men and women serving in a combat theater of operations and the second and third order effects upon returning home," said Col. James Grant, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the New Jersey National Guard. "The mentorship program allows those that have served or are serving the opportunity to assist others in uniform when they need it most.

"The synergy created between the military and the judicial system will assist our veterans in the reintegration process," Col. Grant said. "This is a win-win for all concerned."

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.

"Mentoring is a critical component of the Veterans Assistance Project," Chief Justice Rabner said. "Veterans have made sacrifices in defense of this nation, and providing them with mentors will help ensure that they get the services and support they deserve."

The Veterans Assistance Project was piloted in Atlantic County in the municipal courts and in the criminal division of Superior Court in 2008. A total of 31 veterans have been referred from the courts to the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

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.

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