FREEHOLD – The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office is teaming up with the federal Veteran’s Administration and mental health and rehabilitation providers to launch a Veterans Diversion Program (VDP) in Monmouth County, Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced today.
Under the new VDP, active and former service members who are charged with certain offenses, and are suffering from a mental condition related to their military service, may be eligible for diversion to mental health and rehabilitative treatment rather than face traditional criminal prosecution.
The program, which will be administered by the Prosecutor’s Office, involves intensive supervision and monitoring of a veteran’s treatment by an applicable treatment provider, the Veterans Administration (VA), the Prosecutors Office, and a volunteer mentor assigned to support the veteran. Veterans approved by the prosecutor for admission into the program are expected to regularly attend counseling and, where applicable, receive mental health or substance abuse treatment in accordance with VDP conditions.
A veteran who successfully completes the terms and conditions of this program to the satisfaction of the prosecutor, has not been the subject of any subsequent criminal charges and continues to make progress with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, shall have his/her charges dismissed and the underlying charge expunged.
“We have a moral obligation to our veterans and service members. They return home after long tours of duty in warzones with unseen wounds and issues related to their combat experiences. They can turn to drugs and crime in their efforts to cope. They need our compassion – something they have surely earned – to make a difference in their lives instead of convictions and jail sentences,” Gramiccioni said.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will retain sole discretion over who is admitted into the VDP. Ordinarily, only veterans charged with non-violent third or fourth degree crimes will be eligible for participation in this program. However, service members charged with other offenses may also be approved for admission into the program, if the prosecutor determines that there are sufficient compelling circumstances surrounding the criminal incident to warrant diversion.
The countywide VDP is based in large-part on other programs for veterans established in Buffalo, New York, as well as legislation set to take effect across New Jersey in December.
“The program we have developed here in Monmouth gives prosecutors greater flexibility to admit worthy servicemen and servicewomen for diversion, providing them access to appropriate mental health treatment and rehabilitative services rather than incarceration,” Gramiccioni said.
Prosecutor Gramiccioni thanks his partners in the legal and military community for their advice and support in the development of the VDP, notably Christopher D. Adams, Esq., LTC James Sfayer, USMC (ret.) and Thomas M. Roughneen, Esq.
In order to ensure that all potentially eligible veterans are being considered for this program, earlier this week Gramiccioni instructed all Monmouth County law enforcement officers to question all arrestees as to the current or former service member status, and make an appropriate notation on the criminal complaint.