Judge spearheads new project to help veterans from inside the courtroom
Jefferson County District Court Judge David Holton
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE)- There are more than 350,000 veterans living in Kentucky alone some of whom are involved with the criminal justice system. Jefferson County District Court Judge David Holton is working on a project aimed at helping local veterans. It is called the Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court.
Judge Holton is spearheading the effort, which is expected to be making its way into Jefferson County courtrooms soon. It's a project three years in the making for Judge Holton.
"My goal is to change lives," Holton said.
Holton is working with a group including County Attorney Mike O'Connell, to start a veterans treatment court. Holton said the Jefferson County Drug Court and the Veterans Administration Medical Center are all part of the effort to bring the project to the Commonwealth.
"We anticipate that we, at this very moment have several hundred veterans who are on the receiving end of the criminal justice system, if you know what I'm saying," Judge Holton said. "So, yes, the problem is there."
Holton said on an average daily basis, there are 200 veterans in jail or on home incarceration in Jefferson County. The veterans treatment court aims to help returning veterans struggling with conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder or drug and alcohol addictions.
"They were there for us and now it's our turn to be here for them as they face these issues," Holton said.
It is the first of its kind in Kentucky courtrooms. Holton said the project has even received a 3-year, 350,000 grant from the Veterans Justice Administration to begin hearing cases. However, Holton said make no mistake, "It's not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's not a free pass. But, it's an opportunity to work themselves back into the main stream."
Holton said 20 percent of returning vets have PTSD. Holton points to an incident where Lieutenant Colonel, Donald Blake Settle said LMPD officers mistook him for a panhandler and forced him to the ground. Settle said he suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving overseas and is considering legal action. Settle said he is not involved with the justice system nor substance abuse.
"It's a matter of public awareness. I think this is an important project, because of the pervasiveness of mental health issues and substance abuse issues in our returning veterans," Holton said.
Holton said we can expect to see cases in Jefferson County courts as early as November. He also said he'd like to see the project expand across Kentucky to other counties.
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