BRIDGETON — The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office has put out a call for veterans who would like to volunteer as mentors in the county’s Veterans Diversion Program.
“The goal of this program is to assist veterans who find themselves falling victim to substance abuse and becoming involved in criminal activities,” Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said. “Such behavior may be caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries and other physical injuries that are a result of their time in the service.”
The Prosecutor’s Office, along with the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, will host a training session from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Cumberland County College in Vineland for veterans from any branch interested in being a mentor, Webb-McRae said.
“The mentor is intended to encourage, guide and support the veteran mentee,” said Webb-McRae, adding they are an essential part of the program who support participants through the criminal justice system while assisting with their treatment plans. “Mentors should be good listeners and be willing to spend the time necessary to understand the concerns of the veteran mentee.”
Mentors do not need legal experience but are expected to make weekly contact with their assigned veteran through a phone call or in-person meeting, Webb-McRae said.
Interested veterans must complete an application and email it to Lt. Jasmin Calderon at email@example.com or fax it to 856-451-1507. To contact Calderon, call 856-453-0486, ext. 11108. The application can be found on the Prosecutor’s Office website.
The program, established by a bill approved by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2017, also exists in Cape May and Atlantic counties. Upon completion of the program, which can take up to two years, veterans can have their criminal case dismissed and their arrest record expunged.
“It is our sincere hope that veterans in our community who meet these requirements, and have an interest in helping their fellow veterans, apply to be mentors so that those men and women who are determined to be eligible for the Diversion Program have every tool they need to succeed,” Webb-McRae said.