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Page 10
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Alternatives To Incarceration for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

By Jim Murphy

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The Tompkins County/Ithaca Veterans Alternatives To Incarceration (ATI) Project.

Approximately 1.6 million American troops have served in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and/or in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom). Noteworthy are national reports regarding the frequency of these returning veterans with mental illnesses and/or substance addictions. War-related illnesses may contribute to escalated suicide attempts, arrest, incarceration, divorce, domestic violence, homelessness and despair. Due to the anticipated increase of these veterans appearing in our criminal courts, we are proposing a process and a support program for these young veterans. We are closely following the process of the Buffalo Veterans' Court/Treatment Program. Buffalo has created a model now used in many regions of the country.

A collaboration has been formed to implement an ATI program for Tompkins County, New York and the City Of Ithaca. The primary contributors are The Veterans Justice Outreach (VA) Coordinator, Kynna Murphy, Benjamin Evans at the Syracuse VA Medical Center, Outpatient Clinic of Tompkins/Cortland Counties, Deborah Dietrich of Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) of Tompkins County Inc. and James Murphy, old-time VVAW member and coordinator of the Veterans Fellowship Of Reconciliation (VFOR).

Our model for Tompkins County/City of Ithaca courts begins with the identification of the defendant as an OIF or OEF veteran. We would ask that this be one of the initial questions following arrest and the trigger for our program. Buffalo has a specific court and judge from this point on but we have a minimal number of possible veterans that would be eligible. We recommend that specific judges be selected for the first step following arrest. Ideally the judges would be war veterans or era veterans.

The element provided by the Veterans FOR/VVAW is that of mentoring ATI veterans when released from jail or as part of the alternative sentencing, be it community service, drug rehabilitation etc. As mentors we will make sure the young veteran is fulfilling their agreement with the court system, making their VA counseling appointments, provide transportation, help research employment and/or training, college research etc. We will be in the role as older brother, not a counselor. The VA will provide the corresponding counselors that we will interface with.

If you wish to discuss or investigate replication of this program or discuss existing ATI programs, please contact me at ivetsfor@gmail.com.

Jim Murphy is a longtime member of VVAW.

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