Five graduate from Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Four men and the first woman in the program graduated from the Matt Brundage Memorial Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court on April 11. Judge David L. Jordan congratulated each graduate in turn, giving them their certificate of completion and a coin also emblematic of the graduation.

The graduates came to the podium accompanied with their mentors, who assist them all through the program.

"The mentors," said Kevin Tatroe, Chief Probation Officer, "are usually from the same branch of service as the probationer and, if possible, served in the same war."

The 54A Veterans court is called the Matt Brundage Memorial Ingham County Treatment Court, after "Matt Brundage, our late Chief Probation Officer," said Stephanie Gonzales, Court Officer.

"He passed away suddenly last fall. He was one of the founding people with Judge Jordan that started the treatment court so the court was re-named in his honor.

"Thanks to Veterans Court," said Chris Smith, a participant in the program, "I went from homeless, walking the streets in East Lansing, to having my own place. I have been going to Lansing Community College. If it hadn't been for Matt (Brundage) who brought me into the program, I wouldn't be here. He really cared and that meant a lot." Smith served at Camp Pendleton.

Sessions of the then named Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court (ICVTC) began in April in 2010. This specialty court was created by a local administrative order includes the 30th Circuit Court, 54A, 54B and 55th District Courts. It is held at 54B District Court under the direction of Judge David L. Jordan.

Veterans court integrates alcohol and drug treatment and mental health services with supervision of each Veterans probationary case. The court helps Veteran defendants access treatment using the sources available to them from the Veterans Administration.

The VA provides "a whole package of benefits--medical benefits, mental health, individual and family counseling benefits, assistance with homelessness, job training, and educational benefits. Educational benefits are one of the reasons we see a lot of veterans in this area because they attend LCC (Lansing Community College) and MSU (Michigan State University)," said Judge Jordan.

All veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law are eligible for Veterans Court. The consent of the prosecutor and the defendant are both required to enter the program, explained the Chief Probationer Office, Kevin Tatroe. All misdemeanors are nominally available and some of the four year felonies. It is not the charge but what they plead that makes them eligible for the program.

The Veterans court meets on the first Tuesday of each month. At each session there is a person from the VA who can help the person access their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. The bulk of their probation is a series of three steps that can take 18 months. After 15 months they graduate then they have three more months of non-reporting probation to wean them off (the services).

In keeping with its mission to "Leave no Veteran Behind," the Veterans Court:

* Coordinates services between the court, probation, the Veterans Administration and any service providers.

* Provides veteran mentors--an individual they can trust and can help with jobs, housing, or other problems as they appear

* Provides probation mentoring and court supervision twice monthly

* Coordinates feedback between the court, probation, veterans' administration, and service providers

* Treats the needs of the Veteran promptly and professionally.

At the end of the ceremony, Judge Jordan introduced Roscoe, a Rottweiler and therapy dog. "Roscoe is a treatment dog. He has a Veterans Court coin on his collar. He is a cool addition to the court."

Roscoe will be present on the first Tuesday of each month to help those in need of emotional, physical, or psychological support. Petting and contact is what therapy dogs are all about, explained his owner and handler, Penni Elsesser, certified in dog training and part of the Therapy Dog Team.

"Roscoe's presence," she said, "can help create calm in the courtroom."

Judge Jordan will be the featured speaker at the ICBA Criminal Law Section meeting on April 20th. For more information, contact

Published: Thu, Apr 19, 2012

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