Every Monday, a Kennebec County courtroom fills up with people who’ve committed crimes while dealing with addictions and mental health issues.
But once they’ve gone through the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court, they rarely go back before a judge, again.
A recent review by Maine’s Law Court found since 2014, only one person in Co-Occurring Disorders committed a new crime after graduation.
Not one of the 13 graduates from Veterans Court did.
Eric Banrevy is one of those graduates.
“This is the first time I’ve looked at these in years. When I was done with the Corps, I put them in a box and they been in there.”
Eric Banrevy was a high school senior in calculus class when he decided to join the Marine Corps.
His military career included nearly two years of heavy combat in Iraq.
“Not really thinking about what you’re feeling. You’re returning fire, you’re calling for Medevac, you’re trying to coordinate some security perimeter so you can put the remains in the back of the Humvee, apply proper medical attention to whoever is still breathing, and then when you’re done with that, you go back on another mission.”
“That’s why I went back. I wasn’t at home anymore when I came home. I felt more at home over there In Iraq.”
Banrevy turned to alcohol to help him try to adjust.
“I was in and out of jail when I got out of the Corps for fights, going to bars and getting into fights. I was an adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline was the only thing that made me feel good. Bungee jumping, skydiving can only go so far. Bar fights can only go so far. And then it just kept escalating.”
Banrevy was living in Florida when he came to Southern Maine to visit another struggling veteran. His buddy hatched a plan to rob a store.
“I didn’t hesitate – I said yeah. To me it was a mission. I did the recon, gathered the data, we scouted everything, we knew the ins and outs. Very quickly, within a matter of hours, it was like a real mission,” Banrevy says. “Unfortunately, I hate to admit it, it felt good. I felt alive. I realized it was my fix. If I went from extreme sports to bar fights to an armed robbery, it’s likely that the next step is going to be probably suicide by cop or something.”
Years later, Banrevy was arrested for the crime.
Then he entered the Veterans Court in Augusta.
“I felt like I had someone watching my back again. When I got done with Iraq and I came back home, I didn’t really have anybody looking out for me, for watching my back or really caring.”
Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney says, “What the Veterans Court enabled him to do is to feel alive through reconnecting with other people, reconnecting with other veterans.”
The court focuses on keeping defendants out of jail and returning them to the community.
Most spend about a year-and-a-half getting addiction treatment, counseling and resources to rebuild their lives.
Banrevy says, “They taught me to give me purpose again.They were passionate for a treatment, they weren’t demanding. The rules are strict, but they didn’t tell you what to do.”
“I look at these photos and just like wow – this used to be me and now this is me.”
At 30-years-old, Banrevy is now going for his bachelor’s degree in physics at USM, volunteers in the community and mentors others like him.
He credits his new life to Veterans Court.
“When I see other veterans coming into the program, I consider myself a visual representation that you can change, you really can change – regardless of what you’ve been through.”
Right now, Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court is only offered in Kennebec County.
It failed to expand two years ago because of lack of state funding.
But Maloney says she expects lawmakers to consider the idea, again, soon, especially with the court’s success record.