There was a very inspiring story in Sunday's Daily Independent about the Veterans Court in Boyd County.
The story by reporter Carly Carver documented how a local Marine, James “Jim” Blankenship, is getting a fresh start thanks to the specialized court program led by circuit court judges in conjunction with the Veterans Administration.
Through the program Blankenship graduated and had all criminal charges against him dismissed. Blankenship was originally charged with trafficking in a controlled substance but graduated Veterans Court after being enrolled since last year and successfully met all requirements with no complications or setbacks.
“It gives me great pleasure to enter an order this afternoon that dismisses the criminal charges against Mr. Blankenship, dismissed due to his participation and completion of the Veterans Court program,” Boyd County Circuit Judge John Vincent said.
The official title is called the Veterans Justice Outreach Program. It helps veterans find their footing often after they've had an encounter with the criminal justice system. By working to better themselves through therapy, counseling or diligent reform the veterans are given a chance to start over without incarceration.
In a state and nation where jails are overcrowded to the extreme, this is a good thing. In a nation where the care of our veterans has shortcomings, this is a good thing.
“It's designed to work with local justice system partners to identify veterans that enter the justice system and are in need of treatment services rather than incarceration,” Boyd County Circuit Judge John Vincent said.
Angela Miller, Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist with the VA Medical Center, said the program aims to help those with criminal charges work on appropriate treatment, not just incarceration, and treat the deeper root issue.
“Every veteran gets an assessment, and those who are a good fit for veterans court gets treatment,” Miller said. “We link them to the appropriate service for the underlying issue.”
Boyd County Circuit Judge George Davis has been a leader of this program.
We commend all those involved in this endeavor. It is an amazing accomplishment. We also wish the best to Mr. Blankenship -- your work has earned this graduation and we suspect life ahead will reward you for your hard work.