October 10, 2016
Farmersville Rotary Welcomes Justice Kennedy

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon L. Kennedy and Pastor Mark Williams of the Farmersville Rotary Club

Justice Kennedy pictured with Pastor Mark Williams of the Farmersville Rotary Club at the club meeting on October 10, 2016, at the Jacksonville Twp. Community Building in Farmersville, OH.

The Farmersville Rotary Club welcomed Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy on Monday, October 10, 2016, as she spoke about the Ohio justice system and the growing number of specialty Veterans Treatment Courts.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Labor Statistics report, in 2004 there were approximately 200,000 veterans in prisons and jails, representing about 10% of the total U.S. inmate population, Kennedy said.

Citing a study released in 2008 by RAND Corporation, as well as a 2010 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law article authored by U.S. Circuit Court Judge Michael Daly Hawkins (9th Cir.), Kennedy said that an estimated 1.5 million members of the U.S. Armed Services will have served in combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan, many with up to 3 or 4 deployments each. Up to 300,000 of those men and women find themselves returning home with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or major depression.

Kennedy stated that combat trauma can make it difficult for service members to readjust to civilian life, and many find themselves in the justice system as a result.

 “Service members and their families who have given so much deserve our help. We have an obligation to help make them whole by connecting them to services available to them,” said Kennedy.

The first Veterans Treatment Court was created in Buffalo, NY, in 2008. Ever since, there has been a growing recognition within the justice system of the need for such programs. As of 2014 there are 220 Veterans Courts nationwide, and 15 in Ohio as of 2016.

Kennedy said that Veterans Courts put together a collaborative interdisciplinary team including the prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider, probation department, and Veterans Health and Benefit Administrations.

“Treatment courts fundamentally understand that veterans are struggling with issues of substance abuse in self-medicating PTSD, TBI, and sexual trauma. [There is an] assessment process to establish a wrap-around treatment plan for the individual,” she said.

Justice Kennedy also spoke about two resources available to those with prior military service: the Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project, which provides legal assistance to Ohio’s veterans and service members; and the Veterans Justice Program, a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in which Veterans Justice Outreach specialists work to connect justice involved veterans and service members to benefits and treatment.