Tulsa, OK – Mayor Dewey Bartlett with Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Rita Aragon and Councilor G.T. Bynum announced today that the City of Tulsa Municipal Courts will start a Veteran's Treatment Court beginning March 25, 2011. The Municipal Veteran's Treatment Court is the first of its kind in the country and will have a specialized docket targeting veterans charged with misdemeanor offenses.
"With over 300 veterans arrested through municipal courts last year, the Veterans Treatment Court will give veterans a chance to receive free help through the Tulsa Vet Center and Veterans Administration and help reduce the many chronic offenders we receive through Municipal Courts," City of Tulsa Court Administrator, Tony Cellino said.
With the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many veterans and service members return from war with PTSD, depression or other combat related issues. Upon returning home, many veterans and service members turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with the aftermath of combat and wind up in the criminal justice system.
"By taking action at the municipal level, many veterans can avoid the criminal justice system by getting help where it usually starts, with minor offenses," Mayor Bartlett said. "With the help of Councilor Bynum and the many state and federal veteran agencies and organizations, Tulsa is starting a program that will truly make a difference in the lives of our returning soldiers and veterans."
Many local, state and federal veterans' organizations helped in advancing the Veterans Court at the City of Tulsa municipal level including: the City of Tulsa Mayor's Office, Municipal Courts and Prosecutor's Office, the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Tulsa Vet Center, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, and the Marine Corps League.
"Tulsa has always been a city that properly honors its veterans, and this is the latest example. The veterans program will aide those who have kept us free by providing them with opportunities they may not know about at a time when they need them most," Councilor G.T. Bynum said. "I appreciate the role our veteran's community, our municipal court and our City Prosecutor's office played in making this program a reality."
At the District Courts level, Tulsa currently has a Veterans Treatment Court in place to help non-violent veterans get their life back on track through alternative means other than the criminal justice system. The Tulsa Veterans Treatment Court is coordinated by former United States Marine, Matt Stiner and was the third veteran's treatment court launched in the United States and the first in Oklahoma. The Tulsa Veterans Treatment Court has trained over 20 courts from across the nation to help establish veteran's treatment courts. There are roughly 60 veteran's treatment courts in the nation. The city's newest veteran's court is the first of its kind at the municipal level.