A special celebration inside the Anoka County Courthouse this month as Anoka County Veterans Court marked a decade of accountability and compassion.
"I've been at the Veterans Treatment Court from the beginning, clearly the most important thing I've done in my 21 years on the bench," said Judge Jenny Walker Jasper of the Tenth Judicial District.
CTN did a profile on the Veterans Court back in 2017 when the court was celebrating five years in operation. Just like civilian court, there's a judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys. But punishment is replaced with rehabilitation.
"These are people that we've asked to go to war for us and they come back, they have issues and we're trying to help them," said Judge Thomas Lehmann of the Tenth Judicial District. "A lot of them are PTSD issues, a lot of them are alcoholism issues, all that are related to combat or service."
Since November 2012, 122 veterans have gone through the court. Eighty-four have graduated which is a 69% graduation rate. The recidivism rate is just 12% and is defined as a conviction of a non-traffic misdemeanor or higher offense within three years of graduation.
"I told you my story cause I want you to understand that this court is where hope comes alive and new opportunities and possibilities are created for veterans like myself, said Paul Evangelist, the peer mentor program coordinator.
Evangelist, who served in Vietnam, is the peer mentor program coordinator. For the past eight years, he's matched mentors with veterans.
"What I do is I recruit veterans that might be interested in being a mentor," Evangelist said. "I interview with them to determine if they and I think that they are appropriate."
There are currently 14 volunteer mentors who are veterans themselves with an honorable discharge. Once again giving back to their country by helping other veterans struggling to find their own footing.
"I think for a lot of them they see it as a chance to not only deal with the issue that brought them to court, but also give them the help for life long issues they've been having and hopefully want to end," Lehmann said.
Click here for more information on Veterans Court.
Link to CTN profile on Veterans Court from Nov. 2017.