The graduation recognized the veterans for completing one-two years of enrollment in treatment, such as inpatient or outpatient treatment for substance abuse, mental health with no additional criminal charges. All four participants were previously charged with 3rd- and 4th-degree offenses, which were dismissed upon their completion of the program.
“The veterans’ community has such a variety of needs when they are discharged from their service. Oftentimes, some veterans will commit minor offenses that are related to undiagnosed trauma/illness that they may have obtained while protecting our freedom. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to helping them get the treatment that they need, rather than incarceration, so long as they remain committed to their recovery,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.
Jewish Family Services provided support programs for the veterans following a Veteran’s Administration evaluation by Justice Outreach Specialist John Walter of Wilmington VAMC, serving Southern New Jersey.
On Nov. 2, approximately 14 current enrollees logged onto a monthly VDP Zoom meeting conducted by the Honorable Bernard E. Delury Jr., presiding judge in Atlantic County. The meeting included brief status checks from VA officials reporting on participants’ progress and compliance and the participants were asked to share insights about their thoughts and progress.
Under the VDP, eligible veterans who are charged with certain qualifying crimes may be eligible for diversion to rehabilitative treatment in lieu of the traditional criminal justice process. The program involves intensive supervision and monitoring of a veteran’s treatment by an applicable treatment provider, the Veterans Administration, Prosecutor’s Office, and a volunteer mentor assigned to support the veteran.
Participants must meet all diversion requirements to remain in the VDP, and the program must be successfully completed within two years from the date of diversion. Veterans admitted into the program are expected to regularly attend counseling and, where applicable, receive mental health or substance abuse treatment in accordance with VDP conditions. A veteran who successfully completes the terms and conditions of this program to the satisfaction of the prosecutor, has not been the subject of any subsequent criminal charges and continues to make progress with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment is eligible to have charges dismissed. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office retains sole discretion over who is admitted into the VDP. Veterans charged with more serious, violent crimes will not be deemed eligible for VDP participation.
ACPO is also seeking veterans mentors who assist in the VDP. Volunteers are linked with particular vets to help shepherd them through the process.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Veteran Diversion Program or becoming a mentor, is urged to call ACPO Chief Assistant Prosecutor Rick McKelvey at 609-909-7797 or email email@example.com.