Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown and County Veterans Services Officer Jimmy Petty received the Grayson County Commissioner’s Court’s blessing Tuesday for a program aimed at helping distressed veterans stay out of jail.

Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown and County Veterans Services Officer Jimmy Petty received the Grayson County Commissioner’s Court’s blessing Tuesday for a program aimed at helping distressed veterans stay out of jail.


Brown said the County started looking, some months ago, the thought of having a Veteran’s Court that would hear cases involving only veterans. He said part of that process of looking was seeing if the County had enough cases involving veterans to warrant the extra time and expense of such a program.


As it turns out, Brown said, Grayson County didn’t have enough of such cases to justify setting up a diversion Court, but it did have enough of the cases to warrant some intervention.


Brown explained that the program, set to begin in February, allows military veterans facing criminal charges who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions resulting from their military service to apply for alternative sentencing options. He said it is important to note that the sentences are alternatives and not free passes.


"There will be consequences," Brown said stressing that the goal isn’t to let anyone commit crimes without being held accountable. The goal is to get the veterans into programs that help them resolve the problems that are leading them to commit crimes and to help them avoid having a criminal history when they are back on their feet.


He explained that the veterans diversion program will function with a panel of people from a cross section of positions including veteran’s services, prosecutors, defense attorneys and social services. All of those people, Brown said, will be doing their work under the program as part of their regular job. No one, he said, is expecting to be paid extra money as part of the program.


Brown said the panel will be known as a Justice Involved Veteran’s Advisory Board and will be made up of a representative from his office, Donald Carter, Petty, defense attorney Don Hoover, Jason Kirk with Adult Probation and citizen representatives Charles Holcomb, Paul Richards, Jerry Wrenn and Doug Cook. It will also include Melissa Stroop with the Veterans Affairs Justice Outreach.


He said instead of jail time, veterans who work through the program would be ordered to complete counseling, drug testing, community service, probation or other programs as the situation warrants.


Veterans who complete the program stand a chance at getting their convictions expunged from their records.


County Commissioner Jeff Whitmire wanted to know how this program would differ from the Drug Court currently available in Grayson County. Brown said drug courts and other specialized courts generally have a coordinator to move cases through the system and a judge who over sees the entire process. He said this program will not require the County to hire such a coordinator and no judge will be directly involved in the day-to-day tracking of the veteran’s cases.


Commissioners approved of the program and so did one member of the audience.


Thomas Nuckols said he is happy that the County is starting the diversion program for veterans. He said he thinks getting the veterans, and others, the care they need to keep them out of the legal system should be the goal of the County leaders and care and concern should not be based on getting the program without additional costs to the County.