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New Court System Offers Humane Solution For Struggling Veterans

It is unfortunately common to see veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. These brave men and women who fought so fiercely for our country now feel out of place at home. What's worse, many returning vets are in need of treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol addiction, or other mental afflictions.

Because more and more vets are returning to society in need of treatment, their disorders often manifest as criminal behavior. In the last several years, police nationwide have seen more instances of veterans charged with drug crimes, assault and battery, DUI, and other offenses which likely resulted from the traumas of war. While many have been tried in the regular court system, law enforcement realized that this was not attacking the roots of the problem.

Communities around the nation have instead created veterans treatment courts. These courts only hear cases involving defendants who are veterans of war. Instead of juries, the cases are determined by a judge who is also a war veteran.

Unlike the regular court system, veterans treatment courts focus more on rehabilitation than punishment. Defendants still face consequences for their actions, but sentencing also includes enrollment in programs such as anger management and addiction recovery services.

Not every veteran or crime is eligible for veterans treatment court. A case is only heard if the defendant has an identifiable treatment need which can be linked to the crime. For instance, a case of assault and battery might show the need for anger management classes and treatment for PTSD. Once veterans have carried out their sentence and have completed rehabilitation, they are free to return to society as normal citizens.

Rock County has already successfully implemented Wisconsin's first veterans treatment court. More will be coming to other parts of the state including Milwaukee, La Crosse, Eau Claire, and Waupaca.

Veterans treatment courts are seen as a way to save taxpayers money by rehabilitating veterans instead of incarcerating them. More importantly, these courts offer a way to help the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Source: Beloit Daily News online, "Beloit vet is court's first grad," Hilary Dickinson, 07 January 2011

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