Inmate creates artwork for Veterans Treatment Court Program


Kent County Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. watches the unveiling of a painting that was created by a Sussex Correctional Institute inmate during a ceremony at Kent County Court Room 7 in Dover Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — There’s no missing the newest wall decoration inside the Kent County Courthouse.

The painting with vivid colors and gripping features measures 2 1/2 feet high and nearly 4 feet wide.

The oil-based work was created by a Sussex Correctional Institution inmate as a tribute to the state’s Veterans Treatment Court Program. He worked on it in his cell each night throughout a couple months, prison staff said.

“It was a heartfelt effort,” Department of Correction Lt. Adrienne Hanna said. “He tries to add to the community in any way he can.”

The idea sprouted after Kent County Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. spoke to SCI’s 40-member Incarcerated Veterans Group last year. The inmate — a veteran himself — offered to donate his talents to promote the Veterans Court.

During an unveiling ceremony on the courthouse’s second floor Friday afternoon, the judge offered a positive critique.

“It’s an extremely visual portrait that says a lot of words,” he said. “We hope it will spark interest in what benefits Veterans Court can provide for our society as a whole, including its ability to lower the prison population here in Delaware.”

Debuting in 2011, the first statewide veterans treatment court in the nation has included more than 400 participants, mentored by volunteers.

The recidivism rate for Kent County participants is 98 percent successful, officials said. Of 20 inmates released in Sussex County over the past two years, only 10 percent have returned to custody.

The program’s mission is officially designed to “divert veterans, who meet strict requirements, from the traditional criminal justice system and provide them with the tools to lead a productive and law-abiding life.

Sussex Correctional Institute correctional officer Lt. Adrienne Hanna speaks as Kent County Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. stands by during the unveiling of a painting Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“Studies show that such collaborative courts enhance public safety, cut recidivism and are more cost-effective than the typical manner of processing offenders.”

Veterans with mental illness and ongoing misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases can enter the rehabilitative program. They must attend scheduled court status conferences, follow treatment plans and participate in community groups as ordered, according to the online program description at courts.delaware.gov.

Prosecution ceases upon program completion and charges are dismissed.

After completion of the program, prosecution for the offense will not proceed and the charges will be dismissed.

The special court involved the Delaware Superior Court, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice, Office of Public Defender and the Treatment Access Center.

A statewide Veterans Treatment Court training and recruitment event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the Sussex County VA clinic at 21748 Roth Ave. in Georgetown.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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