Valley veterans get second chance in court

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by Brandy Aguilar, Special projects

azfamily.com

Posted on February 4, 2012 at 7:12 PM

PHOENIX -- They're returning from war and ending up behind bars. But instead of throwing away the key, a unique place is giving veterans the tools to turn their lives around.

Lino Ramos Jr. used to get high all the time, but this Marine veteran has since cleaned up his act and been able to stay focused thanks to programs at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

“Going to jail finally snapped me out of it,” Ramos said. “It was a good thing because I used the think I was invincible.”

Last year Ramos spent time in jail for past drug-related charges. But it would be a unique system in place at the Maricopa County Superior Court that would give him the tools he has today to make it on the outside.
 
Every Thursday, you'll find Commissioner Michael Hintze at Veterans Court. A new court started last January to see only veterans who are on probation or at risk of violating their probation conditions.

“They’re able to come out and say I have an issue, obviously, I'm involved in the criminal justice system in some fashion, I need assistance,” Hintze said. “I need help, and how do I get that help.”

That help goes beyond dealing with a vet's criminal charges. It also provides them with a variety of resources that includes mental health services.

If they’re not successful then there are options and those options are grim, it's the Arizona Department of Corrections or jail,” Hintze said.

According to Hintze, a majority of the veterans are doing their best to not end up in that situation
 
“If you make that connection with the veteran and you show them that we do care, you served your country and what can I do for you at this point to be successful, yet holding you accountable,” Hintze said.
 
It's that accountability that's keeping Ramos on the right side of the tracks.

“It gave you goals to accomplish,” Ramos said. “I think if they have a place that is going to support them with information and knowledge on how to clear up stuff, it's a life-changer.”

There's also a Veterans Court in Tucson. For more information, log onto
http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov.

 

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