Helping veterans in the Carver County court system

County judges and prosecutors work together to help veterans who end up in courtAt this week’s program, Rotarian Mike Wentzell introduced Carver County Judge Janet Cain and First Assistant County Attorney David Hunt. They explained the history, processes and value of the county’s Veterans’ Court program.

Judge Cain and County Attorney Mark Metz formed the program several years ago after hearing of the success in other states and a few other Minnesota counties. The court addresses the prosecution of military veterans with mental health or chemical dependency-related crimes. Frequently, there is an intersection of mental health and/or chemical dependency issues with veterans who struggle with the trauma of war and adjustment to civilian life. Following national standards for this program, the county has developed a nine- to 15-month process of meeting with veterans while they are enrolled in programs to control drug or alcohol abuse or treatment for mental health. Veterans must meet the conditions of their probation and random drug testing. Those enrolled still take responsibility for their actions, but their sentencing will be reduced and the arrest conviction removed from their legal record if they successfully graduate from the Veteran’s Court program. Judge Cain meets every two weeks with those enrolled, and this personal attention has been 100 percent successful so far with no repeat arrests of its graduates. Rebuilding self-esteem that most veterans had while on active duty also requires the development of a “life plan” and is augmented by a buddy system with mentors for each participant.


The county’s program is implemented with involvement from Judge Cain, the County Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the Probation Officer, a law enforcement official, a Veteran’s Services Officer, an Outreach Specialist, mental health and chemical dependency counselors, and a program coordinator. Local support and counseling groups are also integral to the program’s functions.