Veterans Courts

 

In 2008, the RAND corporation surveyed a group of U.S. Veterans six months after their return from Afghanistan and Iraq.  The survey found that nearly one in five showed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or signs of depression.  In one report, it was noted that

Combat exposure appears to be a primary mediator of the impact of war deployment on substance abuse rates. In one study, one in four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan reported symptoms of a mental or cognitive disorder; one in six reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders are strongly associated with substance abuse and dependence, as are other problems experienced by returning military personnel, including sleep disturbances, traumatic brain injury, and violence in relationships.  

Inevitably, prolonged untreated mental health issues or substance abuse will likely give rise to interactions with the criminal justice system, and likely incarceration.  As one article wrote:

A certain number of veterans suffering from mental-health issues will, invariably, end up in jail or prison. After Vietnam, the number of inmates with prior military service rose steadily until reaching a peak in 1985, when more than one in five was a veteran. By 1988, more than half of all Vietnam veterans diagnosed with PTSD reported that they had been arrested; more than one third reported they had been arrested multiple times.

Today, we are facing a similar resurgence of veterans whose interaction with the law stems from an untreated mental health problem.   With few resources after returning home, many will “self-medicate” leading to illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, or prescription pill overuse.  We know that when these self-medicating means fail, veterans are particularly susceptible to violent interactions on either themselves or others.   

Broken, abandoned, and bereft of options, Veterans need a different way to navigate the criminal justice systems than one that merely punishes them for suffering trauma.   Center Court believes that criminal prosecution is not always the right answer, especially when the action stems because of service in the military.  When veterans offer life and happiness to serve their country, returning with a broken mind and a criminal sanction is not only unjust, but punishes the person for a condition they did not create.

Veterans Court and Center Court believe that the best options for many veterans include treatment rather than incarceration.   Center Court believes that helping put the pieces back together for our soldiers and veterans is a direct way our community can help heal the devastating impacts of war.