AUBURN — More than a year after the Maine Legislature green-lit specialty courts for veterans, a group including local lawyers, social workers and jail personnel are ready to create a veterans court in Androscoggin County.

All they need is a judge.

“We’re still looking for a judge to buy into it in this area,” said Jerry DeWitt, a veteran and nurse who lobbied the Legislature to pass the measure. “The team is already in place and standing by.”

Already aboard are the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney Norm Croteau, Maine Pretrial Service, Tri-County Mental Health Services and the Veterans Administration, said DeWitt, a Vista volunteer who works with TMHS.

“The word is out there that we’re looking for (a judge) who is interested in the cause and has the time to make the commitment,” he said. The judge must also be willing to do it for free, since there is no direct funding for the program. “It’s not a small commitment. It takes time to see these people, at least an hour once a week.”

So far, only Kennebec County has managed to pull together a veterans court. Justice Nancy Mills presides, and Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, a veteran who served in Iraq, has championed the program.


“I feel as though Americans have a duty when we send men and women off to combat,” Liberty said. “When they come back, I feel we have a duty to assist them in their transition.”

Veterans courts stand as a kind of last chance for veterans who get arrested.

In return for a guilty plea, veterans are given the chance to pay their debt to society. They undergo counseling, connect with a volunteer mentor and a VA worker and work on healing service-related problems. They also face fines and community service sentences.

Though his jail is sometimes crowded, Liberty said he makes room for any veterans who wish to enter the Kennebec County Program. He also has a cell block devoted exclusively to veterans.

Two from Androscoggin County have been incarcerated there.

“It’s open to anyone within the state of Maine,” Liberty said. “Some counties refer. Some don’t.”


More local veterans would enter the program if there were a veterans court here, said Sgt. Victoria Langelier, the programs director of the Androscoggin County Jail.

“I believe we could service their needs better than the regular probation and parole kind of thing because we would be able to individualize the care that they need to succeed in life,” Langelier said. “A lot of our veterans are suffering from PTSD, so we could give them a pretrial arrangement that could really set them up for success.”

Since May 2012, jail personnel ask every person booked if he or she is a veteran. During the following 14 months, 102 veterans have been incarcerated, Langelier said.

Though only two local people entered the Kennebec County veterans court, Langelier estimated that about half of the incoming veterans have been helped by the jail with services, including counseling from Tri-County Mental Health Services or enrollment in the VA Maine Heathcare system.

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