The city of Glendale has launched its veterans court to provide the necessary programs to assist former military members who have committed crimes.
Mayor Jerry Weiers said he was excited about the Oct. 1 unveiling and praised one of his newer judges.
“After becoming the mayor of Glendale, I worked hard for years to get this project started,” Weiers said. “I am so proud that our new presiding judge understands the importance of the veterans court and is finally making this dream happen.”
When people in the military come home from serving for the United States, most of them are changed. A study from NCBI shows that out of 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 13.5% of them have PTSD.
Veterans who have been charged with a crime will be screened at the court for eligibility into the program.
“The screening is a two-part process,” Glendale’s City Court Presiding Judge Nicholas DiPiazza said. “There will be a screening by the city prosecutor.”
This includes looking at the convicted person’s case, the charges and the defendant’s record.
“The second part of the screening will involve the Veterans Administration confirming that the individual is, in fact, a U.S. service member,” DiPiazza said.
If the person meets the requirements, they can begin the process.
The court offers several programs depending on the veteran’s needs. They have treatments that can address problems like substance abuse, anger management and violence.
“If someone successfully completes the program that they’ve been identified for, they could get a reduced sentence or some other accommodation with respect to their case,” DiPiazza said.
While this court has just launched, Glendale has bigger plans in mind for the veterans court program. “Ultimately the vision is to make this the West Valley regional veterans support that will serve the entire West Valley,” DiPiazza said.
Once the court is settled and has some cases under its belt, the plan is to have other West Valley and Northwest Valley veterans attend this court. “We’ll be able to enter into agreements with the various cities and include them as well,” DiPiazza said.
While this program was put in place to assist veterans and to reduce charges in an offense, it does have limits on certain crimes.
“This isn’t going to be a way to get out of minor traffic offenses. It’s not for that,” DiPiazza said. “We’re trying to treat violence and substance abuse and homelessness.”
DiPiazza said homelessness itself isn’t a crime, but it puts people in unfortunate situations where they have to commit a crime to survive.
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Arizona has 10,979 homeless folks, and 11.9% of those people are also veterans.
“Something that we have to understand is these are people who have served our country and have taken huge risks and have made tremendous sacrifices,” DiPiazza said. “And as a result, they have come home, some of them are not the same as when they went off, and those people deserve some special care and some special attention.”
That’s where the Veterans Administration comes in and provides them with assistance, such as helping find employment, a place to live, getting them meals and other resources to help them survive.
“We owe a great debt to our veterans,” DiPiazza said. “For the number of them that have developed some issues and problems connected to their service, we should do something to help them out. It’s the very least we could do for them.”