County attorney’s office aims to help veterans

By Kyle Daly

May 2, 2013 - 3:54 pm
Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles speaks April 27 during victims' rights awareness week. Alex Tomlinson photo

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office is working to establish a program within the county justice system designed to help military veterans with mental health issues or other service-related problems.

By offering a treatment program or some other rehabilitation plan, the office’s Veteran’s Group would assist veterans who are both crime victims or facing charges, especially those struggling to reintegrate into society after serving in a combat zone. 

In some cases, the program could give veterans the option of seeking treatment instead of time behind bars. 

County Attorney Lando Voyles said veterans not only would need to volunteer for the program, but the attorney’s office would evaluate each individual case to see if the program would benefit those involved. 

“If they are not willing to do this, they don’t have to,” Voyles said. “We’ll try them the exact same way we try anybody.” 

Voyles already has informed county and local law enforcement agencies about the program. Police have been asked to identify veterans who are arrested and booked on charges. 

Here’s how the process would work. 

When a person is arrested and booked, police would find out whether he or she is a veteran. That information would then be passed to the county attorney’s office, which would analyze the recommended charges to see if the person would be a good fit for the program.

In cases that don’t involve a “seriously violent offense,” Voyles said the office would consider offering a plea agreement to that individual. The criteria of the agreement could include enrolling in substance-abuse or mental-health counseling. 

Attorney’s office spokesman Jim Knupp said not all cases would result in treatment in lieu of prison time. 

“Our goal is to protect the public by using the criminal justice system as leverage to help the veteran take advantage of the treatment/rehabilitation plan the office will offer,” Knupp wrote in an email. “That may result in diversion and no conviction but may result in a conviction with no prison or a shorter prison sentence combined with probation to ensure compliance with the program.”

A defense attorney would inform the client the program is available and it would be up to the veteran to decide whether he or she wants to participate. 

Voyles said during the process, a health professional could be asked to analyze the veteran and determine if the individual might benefit from a certain treatment program. 

If a veteran happens to be a victim of a crime, that information can be referred to the attorney’s office either through law enforcement or gathered through the office’s Victim Advocacy Unit, which provides support to victims during criminal cases. 

The same treatment services would be offered to the victims. 

Voyles said he hopes to have the program up and running “as quick as possible.” The attorney’s office is looking at health service providers to join the program. 

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