Military veterans across America, some of whom are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or brain injuries, have reported extreme difficulties in adapting back to civilian life after a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Once back home, substance abuse, mental instability, domestic problems and homelessness are just a few of the issues a returning soldier might face. Some find themselves repeatedly in trouble with the law as arrests and incarcerations come one after the other, stuck in a loop they cannot escape from.
To address this serious issue, a new, alternate court system was created especially to address the specific problems of combat veterans. This court was based on successful drug treatment and mental health courts pioneered in 2008. Defendants in a veterans treatment court are presented with the opportunity to enter a treatment program in lieu of a jail sentence. Not only does this rehabilitation approach provide a badly needed helping hand to veterans facing prison time, it costs a great deal less than putting them in jail.
Reports indicate that veterans who are offered this option are better able to handle their personal finances and are less likely to apply for unemployment benefits. The court has been so successful that some veterans have approached it for assistance, even without being arrested. It has affected the way judges in other courts approach similar cases, with treatment programs being offered to veterans instead of confinement. Advocates say it is an approach that recognizes the specific and unique problems seen in those who have completed military service.
Some former soldiers who go through the veterans court say that it saved their lives. Disabled veterans finding themselves in similar situations may require the assistance of legal counsel with experience in service-related injuries, PTSD or military service stress.
Source: MSNBC, “Veterans can get help instead of jail time“, Erin Delmore, December 28, 2013.
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