County to serve as pilot program for Veterans Court
By NICOLE LOGGINS/Staff Writer
COLUMBIANA — Circuit Judge Bill Bostick recently announced that Shelby County has been selected by Alabama Chief Justice Chuck Malone to serve as a pilot county for the establishment of a Veterans Court.
Bostick will preside over the court, which will provide judicial supervision for military veterans facing criminal charges, with assistance from the Veterans Administration.
Bostick said many veterans coming back, particularly from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, have been filtering into the criminal justice system.
“Our goal is to ensure that veterans involved with the criminal justice system have access to the services and treatment they are eligible for by virtue of the service they rendered,” Bostick said. “We hope to build upon the success of our existing Drug Court and Mental Health Court, which have a proven track record of significantly reducing recidivism among participants.”
Bostick plans to mirror the Veterans Court after the existing Drug and Mental Health Courts.
“Drug court is self-sustaining. The people that got arrested are the ones to pay for their own drug screens, as it should be,” he said.
Bostick said he does not plan to ask for money from the county and logistics for the program have not yet been finalized.
Shelby County Probate Judge Jim Fuhrmeister, who presides over the county’s mental health court, said he anticipates a significant overlap between Mental Health Court and Veterans Court.
“Studies show that major depression and substance abuse have increased among veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fuhrmeister said.
Bostick, a former prosecutor with the county district attorney’s office, has assembled a diverse team with military experience to attend a national training seminar on Veterans Courts in New York at the end of April.
Bostick said repeat offenders end up costing the county more money in the long run.
“The second time a person commits a criminal offense it costs more money for everybody,” Bostick said. “They’re less likely to make bond the second time, so our county jail will house them pre-trial. The trial will take longer to get to because the punishment is going to be higher. It’s a vicious cycle, so I like what you can do with a court like this.”