By Steve Tawa

MEDIA, Pa. (CBS) – Delaware County Council wants to address the needs of military veterans who, for better or worse, find themselves in the criminal justice system in that county.

The program would be for nonviolent offenders only.  Delaware County Council chairman Jack Whelan (at lectern in photo) denies that it amounts to special treatment.

“We are grateful for their sacrifice,” he says, noting that head injuries, substance abuse, and other war-related issues often underlie their criminal behavior.

A key component of the proposed “Veterans Justice Initiative” is connecting veterans with treatment and support services.

US Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa., fourth from left) says that returning servicemembers face challenges including post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), mental health problems, and alcohol and drug issues.

“But we realize that these are young people who really need treatment,” Meehan said.

Pennsylvania state Supreme Court justice Seamus McCaffery (second from right), who was instrumental in setting up a similar track in the Philadelphia court system, says nearly all of the veterans enrolled in that program find a way to clean up their act concerning contact with the law. He says the repeat offender rate is only one percent.

“We get them the necessary treatment,” Judge McCaffery says.  “It gives them their pride and self-esteem back.”

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060



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