How Do You Keep Veterans Out of Jail?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 8:29 PM EDT

A judge in Buffalo, NY has instituted something that's the first of its kind—a veterans' treatment court. From CNN:

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"They look to the right or to the left, they're sitting there with another vet," [Judge] Russell said, "and it's a more calming, therapeutic environment. Rather than them being of the belief that 'people don't really understand me,' or 'they don't know what it's like'—well, it's a room full of folks who do."

If the veterans adhere to a demanding 1- to 2-year regimen of weekly to monthly court appearances, drug testing, and counseling, they could see their charges dismissed, or at least stay out of jail.

After counting 300 veterans in the local courts last year, the judge tailor-made the treatment court to address not only vets' crimes but their unique mental health issues.

A substance abuse counselor from the VA is in the court room with a laptop loaded with the defendant's health records, ready to hook him or her up with available programs and track their progress. As a great side benefit, perhaps this will help accelerate our society's consideration of treatment, rather than punishment, for others from less "deserving" groups who offend non-violently.

Not bad. What is bad, however, is three hundred returning soldiers revolving through that one court alone; what an epidemic we're facing as the war on terror continues.