By Ryan Graham
The Courier of Montgomery County
The Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court has been active for a full year as of this month.
Providing an alternate path through the legal system for some military veterans under the guidance of state District Judge Kathleen Hamilton, the court currently holds a docket of 15 participants.
The court held a celebratory ceremony Wednesday before its regular proceedings, recognizing the assistance provided to veterans by the court over the past year.
“If it weren’t for our participants’ courage, their bravery, their willingness to defend our country, I would have nothing, and that makes this a very interesting court. A huge thanks goes out to all of them,” Hamilton said.
The Veterans Treatment Court is a supportive organization for veterans and active duty service members charged with a criminal offense in Montgomery County. In order to apply, they must demonstrate that the offense was the result of a mental illness, trauma, or similar condition suffered during their service. If accepted, the individual will be transferred to the VTC, where focus lies in healing and reintegration.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 34 years in this county, and back in the day, law enforcement was easy,” said Conroe Police Chief Phillip Dupuis at the ceremony. “What we’ve realized is that everyone we’ve classified as a ‘bad guy’ may be someone in need, struggling with personal issues.”
The program followed by the court requires a minimum of 12 months of mentorship and guidance assisted by the Veterans Administration. The court celebrated the graduation of its first two participants in April, as they began their treatment program in the Harris County Veterans Treatment Center.
“If I do my job right, usually people go to prison. This is the only time in my years where, if I do my job right, people don’t go to prison, and that gives me gives me joy and a sense of accomplishment that I can’t get otherwise,” said District Attorney Brett Ligon.
In addition to Dupuis and Ligon, County Judge Craig Doyal and state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, appeared as guest speakers to thank the court for its service. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-TheWoodlands, was unable to attend in person, but gave a commendation to the court to honor the first anniversary.
In addition to her service on the VTC, Hamilton handles a full criminal docket as well as the county’s Adult DWI Court and Juvenile Drug Court.