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Jasper County to Establish Veteran's Court - KOAM TV 7

Jasper County to Establish Veteran's Court

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JASPER COUNTY, MISSOURI -

A veteran's court is coming to Jasper County.

Ted Donaldson is a military vet. He's also a Director of Compass Quest, which serves other veterans. One of Donaldsons' recent focuses has been educating law enforcement about military vets facing injury, mental health disorders, and substance abuse. 

"Veterans that are dealing with problems in the legal system may have other issues that are affecting them and are contributing to that," Donaldson said. 

Nationally, 8% of the prison population is veterans. Roughly half report being told they have a mental health disorder by a professional. It's why the county's prosecuting attorney Dean Dankelson is supportive of a veterans court, which he says will take veterans convicted with a felony on a case-by-case basis. 

"What this does is provide a more intensive program to those folks who need it," Dankelson said. 

The county anticipates the program to involve up to 20 veterans at any given time; pairing them with a veteran mentor, require additional court appearances, community service, and offer programs through the VA and Ozark Center.

"These treatment core programs are evidence based," Jasper County Court Administrator Erik Theis said. Pointing similar county programs have significantly decreased an offenders chance of returning to prison. "I think it's important to give back to individuals that have served in our armed forces," Theis said, 

Officials say the point isn't to be soft on crime, but to address issues so military veterans don't commit crimes to put themselves back in jail.

"There are only so many prison beds available. And not everybody who commits a felony offense is gonna go to prison," Dankelson said. "It's [a matter of] what you're gonna do with those folks.. and how are you gonna make sure they don't commit another crime?"

"If you help this small component of the community in general you are helping the community at large," Donaldson said. 

The veterans court will be established at the Jasper County Courthouse next month.

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