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Riverside County Veterans Who Pleaded Guilty To Crimes Graduate From Court Program

A half-dozen military veterans who successfully completed a Riverside County Superior Court program designed to provide alternatives to jail will be recognized next week.

Attendees of the Veterans Court will receive graduation certificates during a ceremony scheduled for Jan. 31 at the Riverside Historic Courthouse. This is the court's second graduating class since the program began in January 2012.

Superior Court Judge Mark Johnson, an Army reservist and former defense attorney, oversees the Veterans Court, which is convened once a week at the downtown Riverside courthouse.

The program offers resources to veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or who have substance abuse issues or psychological problems stemming from their deployment to combat zones or experiences that led to childhood trauma.

In exchange for having their cases heard in the Veterans Court, defendants have to plead guilty or consent to reinstatement of their probation. Felons and misdemeanants are eligible to participate. They're placed in 12- to 18-month-long treatment programs that include group therapy, substance abuse counseling, alcohol monitoring and mental health services. Participants must be available to make regular progress reports to the judge.

Agencies partnering in the effort include the District Attorney's Office, the Mental Health and Probation departments, the Office of the Public Defender, the Riverside Police Department and the U.S. Veterans Administration.

The keynote speaker at next week's ceremony will be Seymore "Sy" Kaplan, a World War II Army veteran who fought under Gen. George S. Patton and now resides in the Coachella Valley.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, is also expected to be on hand.

In 2012, the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded a three-year, $350,000 grant in support of the program. --City News Service


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