(08/30/13) - Eight months ago, a new program was started to help veterans who were in trouble with the law in Genesee County.
Those who are enrolled in it say it's tough - but effective.
"Late last year, I got my second DUI and was referred to this veterans program from that," said Shane Millay, U.S. Army veteran.
Rather than being sentenced to jail or probation, Millay volunteered for Veterans Treatment Court. For a year, participants must remain sober, drug free and stick to some tough standards.
"If they don't follow the guidelines set down by Judge Barkey and our VA representatives, they will be arrested and sent to jail," said Terry Marshall, veterans mentor.
Marshall is Millay's mentor. Both are Army veterans, and that helps form a tight bond.
"We talk two or three times a week, minimum," Marshall said.
"I know I would probably be down the wrong road if it wasn't for this program," Millay said.
Ten vets are enrolled in the program. The crimes they've committed range from drunken driving, to assault, to larceny.
"I ended up having a drug conviction, sir," said Terrence Michael Tevis, U.S. Army veteran.
Twice a week, Tevis goes in for urinalysis and breathalyzer testing.
"I feel like if I had gone through the regular probation department, I wouldn't have to be as accountable as I am now," he said.
Tevis is a Persian Gulf War veteran. His mentor is a command sergeant major in the Army Reserve.
"If we were in the service, because my rank and his rank are so different, we probably wouldn't speak," Tevis said.
But they do speak - and often. And if a crisis pops up in his life, his mentor is only a phone call away.
"Terrence knows 24 hours a day if he needs to call me, he can call me. We can talk through things. That's why we're here," said Command Sgt. Major Stuart Smith, Veterans Court mentor.
"Had he not been there, I may not have done the right thing," Tevis said.
Once a week, Probate Judge Jennie Barkey meets with the veterans enrolled in the program, and their mentors. She checks their progress and offers a word of encouragement. But they dare not stray from her guidelines.
"These are individuals that because of their experience in the military, which results in physical and mental trauma and because they experienced that, they commit crimes as a result of that. Those are the ones we're targeting," Barkey said.
A couple veterans have dropped out and are back in the conventional system, but, " For the vast majority of them, it's working," Barkey said.
ABC12 Main Station