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      Special courts aim to keep vets clean, out of jail

      Through the new program, veterans accused of some non-violent, drug-related crimes can avoid jail time as long as they comply with court-ordered rehab and counseling.

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Some veterans accused of crimes in South Carolina are getting the chance to stay out of jail, thanks to a special court program.

      Earlier this year, Richland County started the state's first veterans court. Through the new program, veterans accused of some non-violent, drug-related crimes can avoid jail time as long as they comply with court-ordered rehab and counseling.

      Solicitor Dan Johnson says he decided to start the program to give more help to veterans returning from foreign conflicts. Johnson says the court program helps veterans access government-funded help that is already available to them because of their service.

      The programs started in Buffalo, N.Y., several years ago. So far, there are about 100 veterans courts around the country.