Most people understand that military veterans, particularly combat veterans, have increased risks of a now-familiar list of life challenges. What may slip some people's mind is that contact with law enforcement and criminal courts often increases along with problems such as substance misuse, mood and anxiety disorders, and family and relationship problems.
For more than a decade, California courts have borrowed from recent thinking pioneered in other areas of the legal professions to help veterans accused of crimes by dealing with them in total, as complete people in a complex world.
Collaborative courts are well established in California
Sometimes referred to as problem-solving courts, collaborative justice courts are designed to focus on the underlying causes of crimes and on altering the participant's behavior by changing their life for the better.
As official courts of the judicial branch, collaborative courts can use their authority and power to affect the specific changes that are actually helpful. They have wide latitude to do what will work as well as the ability to apply more familiar resources like judicial supervision, rehabilitation, and monitoring.
Besides veterans' courts, collaborative justice courts in use in various parts of Californiainclude community courts, domestic violence courts, drug courts, DUI courts, elder abuse courts, homeless courts, mental health courts, and various courts where the interests of children are at stake, including dating domestic violence courts and peer/youth courts.
Veteran courts offer big advantages to the community
In California, a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, sexual trauma or other psychological problems can be ordered by a court into a treatment program. The judge can do this instead of sending them to jail or prison.
Since 2008, addressing the core issues that brought the veteran into contact with the law in the first place has had significant success in California. Aside from the enormous benefits to the veteran in avoiding the hazards, trauma and stigma of prison, it's good for the taxpayers.
Recidivism is much lower after the veteran treatment process than after prison, and it costs a lot less. Besides, beyond simply not being arrested and housed in prison, successful and thriving military veterans often make truly exceptional contributions to their communities.