Treatment court gives veterans a second chance

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 19:15:38-04

They sacrificed for our country, now a new type of recognition.

It’s called veterans treatment court.

It’s designed to provide special help to men and women who have served.

The program gives veterans, who have pleaded guilty to felony crimes, a chance to have the convictions dropped if they go through two years of treatment court.    

An Omaha courtroom is not often a place where people share their stories and get applause.

For Marine Corps Veteran Justin Polland, and other veterans going through the treatment court, it’s life changing.

"You see all of these volunteers, all of these mentors who go out of their way for the vets and not even know them, we've all been in a branch and we’re all part of a brotherhood,” Polland said. “That's really the one common place we have and to get a step up is awe inspiring."

Polland, who pleaded guilty to felony assault last year, was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder at the Douglas County jail.

"From the first day that I got arrested the PTSD had me in a recluse mode," he said. "I withdrew from society for the most part."

Polland says he's better off now than when he was five years ago because of the treatment court.

"I'm one of the lucky ones,” Polland said. “I got everything addressed. Granted it was after a felony and it was a life-changing incident, I could definitely be incarcerated for a very long time.”

The veteran treatment court opened in December and is Nebraska’s first.

Judge Mark Ashford has seven veterans in the program and eventually wants it to grow to 30.

Ashford says the past four months have been highly successful.

"It's been amazing,” Ashford said, treatment court judge. “It's unlike anything I've experienced in the almost 30 years on the bench. You're basically dealing with folks that were willing to put their lives on the line to help all of us.”

Participants who don’t make it through the program are sentenced for their felonies.