Lewiston, ID – When Sgt. David Taptto entered Idaho’s Second Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court, he joined the growing ranks of U.S. Military Veterans who have returned from service with substance abuse or mental health issues, and subsequently found themselves embroiled in the criminal justice system for the first time in their lives.
The Second Judicial District is replicating a model that has shown tremendous success around the country to help combat Veterans who are involved in the criminal justice system. The district’s specialized court was created in 2013 to address the unique needs of area Veterans. Participants come to the court for offenses like drunk driving, assault and possession of a controlled substance. Many suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or mental health issues related to their service, with corresponding alcohol or substance abuse problems. The court is currently led by the Honorable Judge Kerrick.
“The Second District is one of the most rural areas in Idaho, spanning 13,900 square miles,” says problem-solving court manager Lisa Martin, who notes that more than 2,500 Veterans live in the jurisdiction. Because of the district’s large geography, some participants have to travel as much as two hours to attend the program. But participants and court personnel alike see the value.
“This program showed up just when I needed it,” Sgt. Taptto says. He was suffering from combat-related PTSD and came into the court because of a felony DUI. “Vet Court was a tough adjustment in the beginning, but it helped me to make sense of all the chaos in my life and provided me with tools to negotiate life without alcohol. Without this program I’d be in jail or worse,” he says.
In September, Taptto became the first graduate of the 18-month program. He is now a full-time student pursuing a degree in social work. Taptto has also returned to Vet Court—this time to mentor others in the program.
“Veterans have unique experiences that bring them into the justice system, and they benefit from being surrounded by other Veterans who understand where they are coming from,” Martin says. The program requires participants to remain substance-free, attend treatment or counseling, report regularly to court, be accountable and complete activities like education, work or volunteering. Drug testing and alcohol monitoring are also key requirements of the program.
In addition, the court connects participants to other services as needed, such as the VA’s Community-Based Outpatient Client, mental health resources, counseling and safe and sober housing options. Veterans who successfully complete the program have the opportunity to have their offense charge dismissed or reduced, opening new doors and giving them a chance to restart their lives.
Alcohol Monitoring Supports Court’s Mission
According to Justice for Vets, nearly 30 percent of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan met the criteria for alcohol abuse. And between 60 and 80 percent of Vietnam Veterans seeking PTSD treatment have alcohol use problems. Those statistics underscore why all Veterans in the program are required to stay drug- and alcohol-free.
Recently the court started using SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (CAM) technology to help alcohol-dependent participants get and stay sober. The technology includes an anklet that automatically tests a subject’s perspiration every 30 minutes, 24/7, in order to measure for alcohol consumption. The court purchased the alcohol monitoring bracelets with a block grant from the City of Lewiston.
Taptto underwent SCRAM CAM monitoring for six months. “It was a big blessing,” he says. “I knew I would be held accountable if I drank, that the court would find out. The bracelet put me in a good place and helped with my recovery. Without it I might still be in the program.”
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS)
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS) is the world’s leading provider of alcohol testing technologies for the criminal justice industry. The company’s flagship Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) technology, launched in 2003, revolutionized the way courts, agencies and treatment providers monitor and manage alcohol-involved offenders. In 2013 the company launched the SCRAM Systems suite of electronic monitoring technologies, which includes SCRAM Remote Breath™, SCRAM GPS™, and SCRAM House Arrest™. AMS employs 190 people worldwide and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.