The Community Veterans Court began admitting participants in May of 2016. The Hon. Sandra Engel presides over this Court and leads a multidisciplinary team consisting of two probation officers, an assistant district attorney, a public defender, and the Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator from the New Mexico Veterans Administration Health Care System. To be eligible, defendants must be veterans of military service from any era regardless of discharge status, in the National Guard, or in the Reserves. Additionally, they must have been charged with a misdemeanor in Bernalillo County and volunteer to join the Court. Treatment services for any substance use disorder or mental illness, such as PTSD, are obtained primarily from the Veterans Administration Hospital or local Veterans Clinic. Participants meet with the judge for status hearings one or more times per month, undergo frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, meet with an assigned probation officer, engage satisfactorily in treatment, and satisfy other conditions of the Court. Each participant is paired with a mentor, who is also a veteran. The unique camaraderie of the veterans group is a vital component in each participant’s recovery.
Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Metropolitan Court Probation Division at (505) 938-4236.
From left to right: Taryn Kasalonis, Assistant District Attorney; Jonathan See, Assistant Public Defender; Presiding Program Judge Sandra Engel; Andres Garcia, Program Manager; Loretta Sanchez, Probation Officer