A Look Into Westchester’s Veterans Treatment Court

When Judge David F. Everett presides over White Plains’ Westchester County Veterans Treatment Court his warm-hearted proceedings are not business as usual.

What is the Veterans Treatment Court?

The Westchester County Veterans Treatment Court (WCVTC) is a problem-solving court developed to address the issues facing veterans who are defendants in certain criminal cases. WCVTC promotes sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response to a veteran’s dependency on alcohol, drugs, and/or management of their mental health challenges.

Participating veterans must enter an agreed-upon guilty plea in exchange for an agreed-upon sentence, generally probation, if the veteran completes this comprehensive one-year program. If the veteran does not complete the program, that person is subject to a greater penalty, generally including incarceration. Once a veteran is accepted into the program upon his/her plea of guilty, the team’s focus is on the veteran’s recovery and not on the merits of the pending case. We view ours as a treatment court, not a punishment court.

judge Everett

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How does it work?

Participation in WCVTC includes judicial monitoring, probation supervision, individualized substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, including attendance at programming multiple times per week, and weekly drug and/or alcohol testing. The attainment of WCVTC’s goals requires the team approach, which includes interim probation supervision by the Westchester County Department of Probation, the involvement of a Veteran Justice Outreach Coordinator from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and mentors who are themselves military veterans. To facilitate the veteran’s progress in treatment, the prosecutor and defense counsel shed their traditional adversarial courtroom relationship and work together as part of the team.

Why is there a need for these courts?

Veterans have many common experiences that are generally unfamiliar to the civilian population. The community services usually available to those involved in the criminal justice system are frequently suboptimal in addressing the needs of veterans, in particular, those related to PTSD. The team concept and specialized services provided by WCVTC are designed to address those needs. The camaraderie of military service and the sense that one was part of something bigger than themselves is a feeling shared by most veterans. Our veteran participants want to experience those feelings again and, by transforming themselves with the help of the WCVTC, get their lives back on track.

Judge David F. Everett and during his deployment.
Judge David F. Everett and during his deployment.

How does your status as a veteran affect the proceedings?

As someone with three combat zone deployments, I believe that I have street cred with the veterans who appear before me and, as a result, they view me in a different, more favorable light. Because of the connection I share with these veterans, they are more inclined to do what is right so as not to let down the judge, who is a fellow veteran.

Related: Golf Unites This Yonkers Marine Veteran and His Son

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