WACO, Texas — Inside the 74th District Court, Judge Gary Coley sees it all.
On Friday, though, he’ll preside over a first for McLennan County.
“To a person, they really look like different people today than they did when we first met them a year ago,” Coley told 25 News.
Three men heading down a path of crime and addiction that would've landed them behind bars, will instead be the first graduates of the McLennan County Veteran’s Treatment Court.
“The area has a large military presence, close to Fort Hood, [and] we had a lot of veterans that needed to have treatment,” said Coley.
The program actually launched two years ago, but this is the first batch of graduates. Right now, 15 others are enrolled.
To apply, offenders have to prove their veteran status, be able to get treatment through the VA, and be charged with a misdemeanor crime like DWI or minor theft. Those facing serious or violent felonies aren’t eligible.
“This program is hard work," said Coley. "It’s a commitment each of them have to make to saying they want to change the path of their life."
While other large Texas counties, like Tarrant and Dallas, have found success with similar programs for years, McLennan County took a while to launch its version. The local district attorney, Veteran’s One Stop, and treatment counselors from the VA are all partners in the venture.
“Therapeutic, drug treatment, but some circumstances had not been met following their discharge," said Coley.
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Graduation is Friday afternoon.