Program giving Bucks County vets a second chance
It's a diversion for defendants who defended our country. Bucks County has a new program aimed at keeping veterans out of prison.
There are 60,000 veterans in the Lehigh Valley area. Statistics show all too often they fall into a trap of drugs, depression and prison. The Bucks County DA's office now has a program to keep combat vets out of jail.
On the battle field they're often heroes but on the home front many veterans become criminals.
"Over there it's all business, coming home is much different. It's boring it's mundane, it's a simple slow transition that is very hard," said veteran Jason Kamora.
For 6 months, Kamora, 37, was an explosives dog handler during the Gulf War.
"Biggest struggle for me was coming home because life in the military, especially on deployment, is so much faster than civilian life," Kamora recalled.
Kamora has never served time but isn't surprised that veterans make up 11% of Pennsylvania's prison population.
"Our goal is to keep these folks out of jail," Assistant District Attorney Bob James said.
To do that James, a Vet himself, has developed the Bucks County Veterans Treatment Program.
"Offering them an opportunity to get feet back on the ground to become productive members of society," James explained.
James says for combat vets who've broken the law but are eligible for veteran administration benefits and haven't been charged with a violent crime, a 6-9 month diversion program will be offered.
This includes everything from a victim apology note to mentoring from a fellow vet.
"Most often what see are people who are committing crimes in service of their addiction," Robert Csandl said.
Veteran Robert Csandl's Allentown Veteran Sanctuary offered similar rehabilitation programs but had to shut down over a lack of funding.
"Easier to talk vet to a vet. That's why these peer mentoring programs are so important. It's an easier adjustment," he said.
If vet's complete James' program they can plead to a reduced crime and or sentence.
For those with post combat related issue's Kamora says anything is better than being behind bars.
"We really don't understand exactly what is going on and how to make the transition. It's safer and helpful for them." Kamora contends.
This Tuesday two veterans are set to be Bucks County's first participants in the program.
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