Since Hennepin County launched its Veterans Treatment Court only two years ago, more than 100 veterans have appeared before the court to get the help they need instead of a lengthy prison sentence. The Minneapolis court has become a model and now advocates say the same type of court is needed in greater Minnesota as well. The point of the special court is to address the underlying issues veterans facing criminal charges struggle with and what ultimately brings them into the criminal justice system in the first place.
With so many veterans returning physically or mentally damaged from the two main wars in the Middle East, a number of them are struggling with acclimating back to civilian life. So many of them have both physical and mental injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder from extended periods of combat. By offering customized treatment plans designed to treat the underlying symptoms that bring them in front of the court, judges are able to not only help our veterans, but also save taxpayers money in the process.
Those who receive treatment are a lot less likely to repeat their criminal behavior. By agreeing to a strict treatment program, veterans convicted of certain crimes are able to reduce their sentence or avoid prison time entirely. To be accepted into the treatment court, veterans must live in Hennepin County or have committed their crime in the county. This court is the only one of its kind in the state and other judges wants similar courts in their districts so other veterans can be helped in the same way.
The rate of veterans convicted of a crime is a national problem. More than 9 percent of the jail and prison population are veterans, thus more needs to be done to address their needs. Expanding the Veterans Treatment Court is simply a good idea. As is contacting a criminal defense attorney who can help you or someone you know who has been charged with a crime. There are options and resources available to help mitigate the fallout of an arrest and a criminal defense attorney can help set you on the right path to a brighter future.
Source: Minnesota Public Radio, “Expansion of treatment court sought for outstate Minn. Veterans,” Jessica Mador, Aug. 13, 2012