JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Eighty-six veterans in 30 months and just one has returned to jail -- that’s an impressive success rate for Jacksonville’s Veterans Treatment Court. Each of those 86 veterans has a unique story about serving their country and then struggling with something they experience during their service that led them down a path of addiction.
Instead of sending them straight to jail after an arrest and conviction, veterans who want to change their life, but just need the help to do it, have an alternative. They can enroll in the Veterans Treatment Court, which is a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment program.
“It is a very intense program,” explained Judge Mose Floyd, who presides over the court. “It is at least a yearlong with five phases. Initially, they are meeting with me once a week, they are attending counseling once a week, they are attending NAA meetings as required. There is also a community service project at the end as an attempt to give back to the community."
Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Duval County judges help identify veterans who have been arrested who may qualify for the program. They are given an opportunity to apply, many of them while they are sitting in jail facing a felony charge. They do have to qualify.
“They have to be active duty or discharged members of the military service, have a documented mental health diagnosis, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or substance abuse disorder; and have an existing connection between the offense or diagnoses and the military service,” explained Floyd.
Their criminal charge has to qualify, as well, meaning they are charged with a misdemeanor or second- or third-degree felony.
“This approach includes intensive individual, group or residential substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, drug and alcohol testing, regular court appearances, educational opportunities, regular attendance at 12-step/sober-support meetings, including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Rational Recovery and participation in pro-social events,” Floyd said.
“There have been some vets who wanted to get out of the program, but they have to apply to me to do that,” Floyd said. “But I know it is in their best interest or in their family’s or in the community’s to finish the program, so I generally don’t allow that, and in the end, they thank me for not having allowed them to get out.”
Floyd spent 12 years as a prosecutor in Duval and St. Johns counties. He is also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is proud of the program’s success rate and of the part he and others involved in the program play in helping to turn around a veteran’s life.
“There was one individual who started out and had some bumps initially,” Floyd said. “But after completing the program, I didn’t realize how bad he was, and at graduation, we give them an opportunity to talk to the veterans they leave behind. He mentioned that he had his family with him, he had reunited with his family and he told the veterans in the audience that they were looking at a 15-year crackhead and, as a result of the program, he now is involved in prison ministry, got his license after about 10 years and he is loving life.”
For more information about Jacksonville’s Veterans Treatment Court, call 904-255-1046.