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For immediate release: Dec. 2, 2009
For further information contact:
At the Judiciary: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig 609-292-9580
At DMAVA: Maj. Yvonne Mays, 609-530-6939
Kryn P. Westhoven 609-530-6950

Veterans Assistance Project Begins in Morris County

A program to assist military veterans who enter the court system has expanded into Morris 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.

“We are pleased to see the Veterans Assistance Project expand into Morris County,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said. “The Project is designed to link veterans who have made sacrifices in defense of this nation with existing services and support they need, including mentors, whose counsel and encouragement can be invaluable.”

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.

“Expanding this program to Morris County demonstrates the commitment all of us have made to bringing this program statewide,” 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.

“Morris County has a sizable veterans’ population, so it makes sense that this county be among the early entries to this program,” Maj. Gen. Rieth said.

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.

“We are pleased to become part of the Veterans Assistance Project.  Our returning veterans should be afforded every opportunity to get the services they need to move forward after they have resolved their legal issues,” said Assignment Judge Theodore Bozonelis.

The Veterans Assistance Project aims to connect service members who need help with existing programs and mentors to address those issues.

The Veterans Assistance Project was piloted in Atlantic County in the municipal courts and in the criminal division of Superior Court in December 2008. It was expanded to Union County in January. Burlington County and Cape May counties joined the program in August.

More than 165 referrals have been made in those counties 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

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