Veterans transitioning to civilian life can be a challenge. Those challenges can be compounded 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. For some, coping with these difficulties progresses to substance abuse or criminal activity. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office has developed the Veterans Diversion Program (VDP), designed to assist individuals who have served in the U.S. Military and now have come into contact with the criminal justice system. If an individual is accepted into this program and successfully completes it, it is possible for the individual to avoid a criminal conviction.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is actively seeking peer mentors to support program-eligible service members through the criminal justice system, while also assisting in their individual treatment plans. A mentor is intended to encourage, guide, and support the veteran mentee. 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 a legal background or experience, just an earnest desire to help a fellow veteran. Generally, mentors are expected to make weekly contact with their assigned veteran through a phone call or an in-person meeting. Mentors must be a veteran of one of the branches of the U.S. Military, including the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, or their corresponding Reserve or Guard branches. Training for mentors will be provided.
Individuals who wish to volunteer as a mentor must complete an application, a background check and submit their DD214 verifying an honorable discharge or proof of being on active duty. To apply, visit nj.gov/military/veterans/diversion-program/#intro and complete the online application. A representative from the NJ Department of Military and Veteran Affairs will reach out with training information. Any questions regarding the Cumberland County VDP can be directed to Lt. Jasmin Calderon at 856-453-0486, ext. 11108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.