Veterans Treatment Court

Posted: May 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

As American military operations draw down in the Middle East, officials in several U.S. states are trying to hold down the number of soldiers who show up in local criminal courtrooms and jails. The soldiers don't always show visible scars from the battle zone. A larger problem, say those who help treat and study them, are mental and emotional problems caused by violent bomb blasts, constant combat stress and the jarring return home to mostly civilian neighborhoods. "A significant sacrifice falls on a tiny footprint of the population," said James Holbrook, a University of Utah law professor who helped found the National Center for Veterans Studies at the school. "They see a whole host of issues when they come back and try to reintegrate. It's a very isolating experience." Some of the troubled soldiers commit crimes, sometimes driven by mental problems or drug and alcohol abuse. But officials in an increasing number of states say that these veterans — like some drug offenders — belong in rehabilitation and counseling programs instead of behind bars.
During the past three years, at least 27 states across the nation have set up "veterans' treatment courts," aimed at healing instead of punishing. Missouri currently has four such courts in St. Louis, Kansas City, Jackson County and Poplar Bluff. State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, thinks the state should be adding even more. Barnes is sponsoring legislation to allow circuit courts in Missouri to establish such courts. The measure passed the House earlier this month and is pending before a Senate committee. The 13th Judicial Circuit has been working on a plan to establish a veterans court in Boone County. The circuit has applied for federal funding to establish the court. Defendants in veterans' courts, often first-time offenders, are usually pre-approved by the judge. Also in the courtroom is a liaison from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, scheduling therapy and helping ex-soldiers figure out which VA services they qualify for. In addition to treatment, the courts also try to find veterans who can befriend soldiers and relate their own experiences. For those who successfully complete treatment, some courts allow charges to be reduced or dropped. [Source: Columbia Daily Tribune article 15 Apr 2012 ++]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s