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Special courts for Veterans; A good idea?

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posted on Mar, 1 2011 @ 07:53 PM
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I received my copy of VFW magazine today and was surprised to learn that, in states across the nation, special courts are popping up which cater only to veterans, giving them special treatment in dealing with their problems after they are accused of a crime.


These courts give wayward veterans a chance

U.S. military veterans from three decades pass through Judge Sarah Smith's courtroom here, reporting on their battles with drug addiction, alcoholism and despair. Those who find jobs and stabilize their lives are rewarded with candy bars and applause. Those who backslide go to jail.

Smith radiates an air of maternal care from the bench. As the veterans come before her, she softly asks: "How are you doing? Do you need anything?" But if a veteran fails random drug tests, she doesn't flinch at invoking his sentence. She keeps a drill sergeant's cap in her office.

Her court is part of a new approach in the criminal justice system: specialized courts for veterans who have broken the law. Judges have been spurred by a wave of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, battling post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries and stumbling into trouble with the law. But advocates of the courts say they also address a problem as old as combat itself.

The few veterans courts in the nation are modeled on drug courts that allow defendants to avoid prison in exchange for strict monitoring. Most are only a couple of months old, and it is difficult to track their effectiveness, but the results from the first court, which opened in Buffalo, N.Y., in January 2008, are striking.

Of the more than 100 veterans who have passed through, only two had to be returned to the traditional criminal court system because they could not shake narcotics or criminal behavior, said Judge Robert Russell. That is a far lower rate of recidivism than in drug courts.

LA Times


It sounds like a good idea and has spread greatly since that 2009 article. Apparently the recidivism rates are incredibly low for the vets who participate in these programs. I don't know of many people who would begrudge these veterans who may be suffering from PTSD getting extra help dealing with their problems but, I can't help but wonder if it's fair to the rest of society giving them this special leg up over the regular Joe.


A Separate Peace
Specialized courts for war veterans work wonders. But why stop at veterans?


The bigger issue with the veterans' court has been raised by some local chapters of the ACLU, which object to the creation of a unique legal class of criminals based on their status as veterans. Thus Lee Rowland of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada opposed the proposed state veterans court because it provided "an automatic free pass based on military status to certain criminal defense rights that others don't have."

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the Colorado ACLU, raised similar objections to the veterans court initiative there, explaining that the legal category of "veteran" is both too broad and too narrow, sweeping in both Vietnam and World War II veterans, who have very different experiences, while excluding nonveterans who also suffer from PTSD but aren't eligible for any special courts. He wondered, "Should the criminal justice system take into account PTSD when it arises from military service but disregard it when it stems from different but nevertheless horrific life experiences?" Nobody actually opposes veterans' courts, and it's difficult to speak out against them. But as Silverstein suggests, if we are finally doing away with "lock 'em up and throw away the key" justice for some classes of people with mental health problems and addictions, shouldn't we do so for everyone?

Slate.com


I hate to agree with the ACLU on anything but, I think they have a point here; if the veteran's programs have been so successful, why not make the same programs available to everyone else?


Is it fair to give veterans special treatment in the court systems?




posted on Mar, 1 2011 @ 08:00 PM
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Is it fair to recognize that these men are suffering from PTSD and to treat them a little different from your common criminal? I say He** yes! Your regular criminal did not go and fight for his country just to be turned out with no treatment for a very real psychological condition. The returning troops did not ask for these problems, they did their duty and now need help. So giving them a little extra consideration, fair? I say it is the least we can do.



posted on Mar, 1 2011 @ 08:01 PM
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Hmmm-that's a tough one for me.I guess if you could PROVE the reason they committed the crime somehow directly related to their service (i.e. PTSD) then I might go for it.But there are also plenty of other people who suffer from PTSD too (rape victims, EMTs, police officers,etc)- are we going to set up special courts for them too?

(By the way, I deeply respect and honor all of our vets- speaking of which: did you hear the last surviving WW I vet died this week?)



posted on Mar, 1 2011 @ 08:09 PM
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Speaking as a veteran myself, I thought one of the principals our troops fight for is the idea of "equal justice for all' : the principal that all men stand equal before the law with no special favors given for our social position and no additional penalties given for those who belong to lower social classes, unpopular minorities or causes.


I like the idea of giving these guys a second chance but, I'm not comfortable with the idea of giving only them these special privileges. If these programs have been so successful, why not look into opening up the same types of support programs to the general public?



posted on Mar, 1 2011 @ 08:26 PM
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reply to post by FortAnthem
 





Speaking as a veteran myself, I thought one of the principals our troops fight for is the idea of "equal justice for all' : the principal that all men stand equal before the law with no special favors given for our social position and no additional penalties given for those who belong to lower social classes, unpopular minorities or causes.


yep. what's gonna happen is that somebody, maybe the ACLU, will lodge a complaint with a higher court of appeals or judicial review board to argue that it violates the equal protection clause as set forth in the fourteenth amendment.

if you think about it, it really sort of does, and arguments against this seem counterintuitive.



posted on Mar, 1 2011 @ 08:36 PM
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Originally posted by MMPI2
yep. what's gonna happen is that somebody, maybe the ACLU, will lodge a complaint with a higher court of appeals or judicial review board to argue that it violates the equal protection clause as set forth in the fourteenth amendment.

if you think about it, it really sort of does, and arguments against this seem counterintuitive.



Knowing how the stupid courts operate, they'll miss the whole point of the objection and abolish this type of court altogether.


The point of the objection is that this type of help needs to be extended to MORE people so everyone can get a second chance if they make a mistake, especially if its caused by PTSD or life circumstances, whether caused by war or something that happened to a civilian in everyday life.

The courts need to look more into helping people to turn their lives around instead of just punishing everyone to the fullest extent of the law. I used to be a hard core "law & order" type but, I think our country has gone way too far in that direction. It's embarrassing to live in the so called freest country in the world when we lock up more of our population than any other country on Earth.



posted on Mar, 2 2011 @ 02:44 AM
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Justice is meant to be blind and equal to all.. Unfortunately that as we all know has failed.. What they need to do is start a program to help veterans fit back into society when they return prior to and just after discharge from service to help them reintegrate into society. (Dont know how they do it now days but after finished my 4th tour in vietnam it was nam one day then out on the street upon return and discharge) doesnt work going direct from a combat zone to the "world" again.. Entirely different and people need time to adjust appropriately.. Cant see how having a seperate justice system would help with that..



posted on Mar, 2 2011 @ 02:53 AM
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At first I agreed they should be treated differently, then the poster who pointed out they fought for equality convinced me it would just be wrong - they did fight for equality! Also if we are going to treat them different because they have had all sorts of repercussion from fighting for their country it wouldnt be long before we have special courts for child abuse victims, special courts for those involved in natural disasters and then maybe special courts for those who are gay. My point is there is so much inequality that we can not accomodate it all - if we give it to one group there is always another who deserves it too - and next thing we have everyone being treated differently and a lot of people getting away with things. They fought for equality - give them that equality, perhaps if there were not so many stupid trivial laws to start with veterans would not be getting cought up in a system some of them now wish they let collapse.



posted on Mar, 2 2011 @ 03:20 PM
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reply to post by byteshertz
 


I don't think they should make courts for every victim's group either but, if they have stumbled upon a system of rehabilitation that works here, maybe they need to look into moving this system into the general population.

If someone isn't a hardened criminal and seems like a good candidate for this type of help, why should it matter if they are a veteran or not in order to get the extra help?



posted on Mar, 2 2011 @ 06:10 PM
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my admittedly primitive understanding of the legal system in the U. S. leads me to think that there was a time when judges and district attorneys could and would exercise discretion in "special" cases involving for example veterans, first offenders, youthful offenders, the mentally ill.

however, legislatures at both the state and federal level have taken that ability away - imposing stuff like minimum mandatory sentencing, very inflexible judicial guidelines.




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