BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, eight percent of America’s prison population is made up of veterans. Unfortunately, that number is constantly growing. The 19th Judicial district court will establish a veterans treatment court to help lower the number.

“We don’t want our veterans in prison,” stated Chief Judge Donald Johnson, 19th Judicial District.

Judges Ronald and Donald Johnson announced what they’re calling a new problem-solving court for Veterans who have committed non-violent crimes in East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish and surrounding areas.

“With an intentional design to have that person Recover from the causes that undermine their criminal conduct and give them the tools to succeed. Through probation with services that are offered to them,” said Judge Donald Johnson.

After fighting for this for a while, Judge Ronald says over the next four years they will be able to help 25 to 30 veterans each year – all thanks to a pell grant.

He said, “We were awarded $700,000 for a four-year period by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which is a federal government through various agencies working together collectively to create this court.”

Veterans with cases that don’t call for them to serve time will be sent to the Veteran Treatment Center where they will receive help for substance abuse and/or mental health problems.

The ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism for Veterans.

Judge Ronald Johnson said, “Where we take high-risk, high-need individuals, we look at the behavior and then we try and modify that behavior through reducing the level of addiction, through treating the addiction and then stabilize the individual to be abstinent from drugs.”

They hope to have the program up and running by February of 2023.