Criminal Court Judge Sandra Donaghy discussed the development of a Veterans Treatment Court in Bradley County as well as her role in the 10th Judicial District during a recent gathering of Bradley Sunrise Rotary.
Before her presentation, Donaghy was honored by Rotarian Alvin Word, who recommended and presented Donaghy with the Paul Harris Fellow award.
The Paul Harris Fellow award, as Sunrise Rotary President Mary Norton explained, is the, “Rotary Foundation's way of expressing its appreciation for a substantial contribution to its humanitarian and educational programs.”
“A world of peace and goodwill comes closer to reality today as Sandra Donaghy becomes a Paul Harris Fellow,” Norton said. “It is because of gifts like the one made in her honor that the Rotary Foundation is able to carry out an array of programs that achieve beneficial changes in our world, such as improved living conditions throughout the world, increase food production in impoverished countries, better education ... especially for women and girls, and wider availability of treatment and rehabilitation for the sick and disabled so that they can better support themselves.”
Donaghy said she not only hopes to live up to the qualities of a Paul Harris Fellow, but that she hopes to live up to her dad’s lifetime of service to the Rotary Foundation, as well.
“My father would be so very proud if he were here to see it,” Donaghy said. “He was a Rotarian in Wisconsin for my whole life, I remember him going to Rotary and serving in that capacity, so I take great pride in that.”
During her presentation, Donaghy went on to explain the Veterans Treatment Court coming to Bradley County. Like Recovery Court, Veterans Treatment Court will target veterans who have entered the justice system and take them through a program to help rehabilitate them, ultimately giving them the tools they need to overcome their addiction.
“For some people, like my father and my husband, the military made them stronger, and gave them skills and values that they could apply to their life,” she said. “The military was a very good experience for them. But there are some that suffer traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, or just depression, that they end up self-medicating, taking drugs, that either they get on the street, or they get from some family member, and they develop an addiction.”
Donaghy said the backbone to Veterans Treatment Court is to “tap in” to the core values instilled by the Armed Forces, and use those values to solve the problems manifested in addiction.
“Those that have a military background have core values that are very, very good, like discipline, perseverance, work ethic, and a drive to get the mission done. And if we can somehow reach those people and capitalize on those values, we can turn them back into productive citizens,” she said.
In the justice system, the rate of recidivism, or the return rate for violators who have entered the justice system, is typically 75% to 85%, according to Donaghy.
That rate is reduced to 35% in a recovery court. For veterans, Donaghy said their recovery courts are too new to have official data reports for reduction in recidivism, but she used informal data to say the rate for re-offenders drops to 2% among veterans after completing the treatment court program.
According to Donaghy, the treatment court team will include a mentor coordinator, discipline coordinator, an evaluator, probation officer, law enforcement officials, case managers, attorneys and Judge Donaghy herself.