Criminal court program gives veterans 'a second chance'

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's graduation day -- and a second chance at life for veterans who fell through the cracks but were saved through a unique program called Veterans Court.

On this day, it was alright for a Marine to cry.

Byran Lam cried for joy.

"Without veterans court and the training I had in court, I probably would still be doing dope," he told the large group gathered at the Veterans Courtroom in the Hall of Justice.

All those in court today were veterans like Lam. All committed crimes.

Through Veterans Justice Court, they received drug and mental health treatment, housing and job training.

Upon graduation, their criminal charges were dropped.

Judge Jeffrey Ross presides over Vet Court.

He describes the programs's success simply: "Make positive choices as opposed to the ones they made that brought them here."

All those here were grateful.

Army veteran Clarence Cook was looking at 25 to life.

"Vet court gave me a chance," he said. "I stabbed a man on the street and I got three strikes."

Veteran Court, he says turned his life around. He got a job and a bank account for the first time ever.

He's proud of his achievements.

"When I go into the bank, I feel like the president. They say 'Hey Mr. Cook, hi!"

Andrew Cross served in the Navy.

"Serving honorably, returning honorably and being sober honorably is a damn good recipe that I never thought I'd get to," he said.

Cross says he never let his country down, and he's thankful his country, through veterans court, did not let him down.
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