Last summer, we wrote about the debut of Cleveland’s veterans courts, one of a number of such courts being launched around Ohio to help low-level offenders who had served in the military access services to help keep them out of the legal system in the future. That included health care, substance abuse, and mental-health services, as well as assistance with housing, transportation and job search.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton, who spoke with us for that story, had been an advocate of such specialized dockets for over a decade. Stratton began promoting the idea of veterans courts in Ohio about four years ago after speaking with a gentleman from the VA at a conference in D.C. She quickly became their biggest champion, speaking to court personnel across Ohio and hosting veterans justice outreach conferences.
She told us,
A good portion of the veterans that come in the [legal] system had no record or problems before. They are different types of defendants than those with long history of drug abuse. They have PTSD or brain injury, but it’s undiagnosed. These two issues particularly are dealt with by drugs and alcohol. Many are told go get mental health treatment, but only 20 percent of them do. They’re macho — I don’t want the stigma, I can take care of myself. The veterans docket knows how to deal with this.
Yesterday Stratton announced that she will step down from the Supreme Court at the end of this year after 16 years — two years before her current term expires. And it’s no surprise that she’s doing so to focus on issues of veterans in the criminal justice system.
In her resignation letter, Justice Stratton referred to her involvement in providing mental health services to offenders and assisting veterans in the criminal justice system as occupying “a place of growing importance in my life and I have decided to dedicate myself to them even more so, not only here in Ohio but also on a national level.
Governor John Kasich will appoint someone to fill the remainder of her term, which expires in January 2015.