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Thurston County Veterans Court celebrated its third-year anniversary on July 22. It was the first Veterans Court in the Pacific Northwest and only the 12th in the nation. Both Seattle Municipal Court and King County modeled their Veterans Courts after Thurston County's.
The Thurston County Veterans Court was a response of Thurston County District Court, Prosecutor's Office and the Office of Assigned Counsel to the growing number of veterans and service members who become involved in the criminal justice system. A significant portion of these veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain injury and other impacts of their military service.
Veterans Affairs and WDVA formed a partnership with the Thurston County District Court to provide a Benefits Coordinator and an Outreach Coordinator on-site during each hearing. Qualifying defendants, whose mental illness must be connected to the commission of the crime charged, appear regularly in court to discuss their treatment programs, work, education and other issues important to their successful rehabilitation. Defendants meet with program staff outside of court for monitoring and referrals.
In order to graduate, the veteran must complete all recommended mental health, chemical dependency, domestic violence treatment, anger management or parenting classes. Random urine analysis is a requirement for everyone in the program along with regular check-ins with court social workers and weekly court hearings. Successful completion of the program takes approximately 2 years.
Thurston County Veterans Court is held every Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Thurston County District Court, Building 3, at the Thurston County Courthouse in Olympia. Gary Bierman, Olympia DCS Veterans Liaison, normally attends sessions and/or is available via phone to program court staff outside of court on participant's child support issues.
Veterans Court also established in Spokane, Pierce and Clark counties with DCS participation.