The Washington County Veterans Court was implemented in 2011 to identify, treat, and supervise Veterans who enter into the criminal justice system. The Veterans Court Team is charged with identifying and linking offenses that are attributable to the sociological and the psychological impact of the Veteran's service. The Veterans Court is designed to address both diversionary and post-plea cases. Typically, most cases are resolved within 6 to 23 months. The Washington County Veterans Court, a specialty court, employs the ten key Treatment/Drug Court components recommended by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).
Judge John F. DiSalle presides over, the Veterans Court. The Veterans Court meets once a month for acceptance of new cases or review of active cases. The Veterans Court Program accepts Active Duty military personnel, as well as veterans whose service is characterized as either Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions, from any branch of the United States Military who have been charged with a qualifying Pennsylvania State Intermediate Punishment offense(s). These criteria are designed to ensure participant eligibility for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and services. Staffing is held biweekly with the Veterans Court Team which consists of an Assistant District Attorney, the Public Defender, an Adult Probation Officer, a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist (VJO), and a local VA Primary Care Specialist.
Referrals may come from the following sources:
- The Adult Probation Office
- The Booking Center
- Magisterial District Judges
- Police Officers
- The Public Defender's Office (or private Defense Attorneys)
- Representatives of the District Attorney's Office
- The VA
- The Washington County Correctional Facility
Referrals are made to the Adult Probation Office via a referral form (PDF). An Adult Probation Officer collects all legal and clinical information and completes an evaluation. The evaluation provides the Adult Probation Officer with the clinical needs/risks of the referral and a background of their sociological, psychological and military history utilizing the Problem-Solving Adult and Juvenile Courts Information System (PAJCIS). During the initial evaluation, the applicant must provide a valid Identification (ID) and copy of his/her DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
Once an evaluation is completed and the information is verified, referrals are sent to the VJO for verification and processing. Once the VJO confirms the applicant's Veteran status and approval for VA services, the referral is then submitted to the District Attorney's Office Representative for legal screening. The referral is then brought to staffing for discussion and final approval. All referrals are then sent to the President Judge.
The Judge schedules a Court date for sentencing or other disposition. All approved referrals must review, sign, and adhere to all the condition of the Veterans Court contract. Once accepted, participants are supervised by an Adult Probation Officer for a period of 6 to 23 months during which they must successfully complete program phases. All participants must complete an evaluation, coordinated by the VJO with the VA, to identify and treat sociological, psychological, or drug and alcohol needs. The VA provides other services such as:
- Family services
- Job training/placement
During the term of supervision, the Adult Probation Officer, while working closely with the VJO and treatment providers, enforces all conditions of the Veterans Court contract, any conditions directed by the Court, and all treatment recommendations from the VA. Each phase of the program varies based on length of sentence, progress of the participant and completion of conditions outlined in the participant's supervision plan. Upon successful completion of all phases, Court-ordered conditions, and maximum term of sentence, the participant graduates and is awarded a Pennsylvania Veterans Court commemorative coin.