A veterans program in Tampa is now being used as the model for others across the county.
Retired Air Force Colonel and Circuit Judge Gregory Holder runs the Hillsborough County Veterans Treatment Court.
Holder says it was launched in October of 2013 by Circuit Judge Richard Weis, who noticed an increase of veterans facing criminal charges suffering from service related problems.
“Anything from a DUI to an aggravated battery or aggravated assault,” said Holder.
The purpose of the program is to give veterans a second chance by keeping them out of jail.
In Tampa, 95 veterans go through this program per year.
There are now more than 200 veterans courts around the nation, and the one in Hillsborough County has been so successful it has been selected by the Department of Justice to improve veterans’ courts nationwide.
It's all part of a pilot project where other courts will specifically look at the screening tools used in Tampa that determine which veterans qualify for the program and the type of help they need.
“We fashion a unique therapy for each man and woman in our program. This is a helping hand up for these men and women. We’re saving the tax payers of Hillsborough County and this nation millions of dollars in incarceration,” Holder said.
Other courts will evaluate the screening process through next year to see how well it works for them.
Once the veterans finish the program their misdemeanor or felony charges are dismissed, but it doesn’t come without work.
“There’s a commitment on the part of these men and women to participate and fulfill their obligation."