Milwaukee County treatment court gives troubled veterans a second chance before incarceration

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A program in Milwaukee County is dedicated to veterans in trouble and in need.

CBS 58 talked with one graduate of the program who said it helped redirect his life.

It was a domestic dispute that led Frank to find his way.

“During the altercation, I really didn’t know what was going on after I started it," said Frank.

After turning himself in, the Milwaukee army vet, had two options.

He could do probation through the regular court system or participate in Milwaukee County’s Veterans Treatment Court.

“And it’s a whole different scale because, me, I’m going in this believing there’s nothing wrong with me," he said. “And it was really the most difficult, one of the most difficult parts of my life.”

“The veteran is essentially being given the opportunity to avoid any incarceration time," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Cynthia Davis said. "And then (the veteran) has the benefit of a team – I call them experts – supervised by the judge, myself.”

The Court has served 352 veterans since its inception in 2012, and has a 78% graduation/success rate.

Treatment ranges from therapy to housing support to learning a new skill.

“I even started taking up guitar lessons there," said Frank.

Michelle Watts was Frank’s counselor. He said she helped him uncover his depression and anxiety.

“It is their basic needs that we’re looking at assisting them and getting them that platform to jump to where they need to be," Watts, a veterans justice outreach coordinator and social worker, said.

After completing the program, Frank said  he was able to better manage his emotions and focus on what’s best for his life and his future.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about," he said. "The good part about it is it worked out. It worked out and right now I’m comfortable and I can see that I have changed a lot.

The Court is always looking for veterans, and volunteers, to help.

For more information, click here.

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