MILWAUKEE — All the defendants in one specialized Milwaukee County court share a common link.
They are military veterans and are accused of nonviolent offenses that involve substance abuse or mental health issues.
The Veterans Treatment Court meets every Wednesday morning and reduces sentences or dismisses charges against its defendants if they complete required drug and alcohol treatment.
Judge Ellen Brostrom, who presides over the court each Wednesday, told WUWM radio (http://bit.ly/15u1N7d ) that some veterans have suffered physically and mentally as a result of their service. They deserve a second chance, she said.
"Being a vet is tough, whether you serve in combat or not, it's a very difficult burden to take on," Brostrom said. "And we owe them a way to get themselves back to wholeness, especially when the brokenness they're experiencing is a result of having served in the military, for which we are all indebted."
Christopher McCain, a 58-year-old veteran, has received treatment in the program after three drunken driving convictions and a prostitution charge. Brostrom congratulated McCain during a recent appearance because he's been sober for 13 months, and asked him how we went without a single violation.
"One day at a time," McCain said.
The idea for the court came from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a former Army lieutenant. He said 50 people have completed the program in its first two years, of the 60 who have gone through it. Most of the treatment ordered by the court is paid by the veterans' benefits.
"This is really a last chance for many of them," Chisholm said. "If they don't succeed, the consequence is gonna be prison."
Information from: WUWM-FM, http://www.wuwm.com