A Boston court made history yesterday. The veterans’ treatment court is one of the first Boston courts of its kind; proceedings will “help treat military veterans arrested for crimes linked to trauma caused by their service,” The Boston Globe reports. The new court is only the second veterans’ court in Massachusetts and the very first in Suffolk County.
Veterans’ courts do not, The Boston Globe adds, turn a blind eye to the law. The aim is justice — and equal treatment — for suffering vets. “When veterans end up on the wrong side of the law, we shouldn’t and don’t turn our backs on them. Instead, we use it as an engagement to get them the services they need and they deserve. We don’t set laws aside, we bring the administration of justice in line with our values,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh explains. Court officials carefully consider cases in light of PTSD and similar, ongoing trauma. The Boston Globe continues, “It [the Boston Veterans’ Court] is staffed with specially trained judges, clinicians, probation officers, and attorneys, many of whom are veterans themselves.” According to Director of Communications at Justice for Vets Christopher Deutsch 130 U.S. Veterans’ courts are currently in place; plans are in the works for more than 200.
Although ultimately determined on a case-to-case basis, courts are likely to grant ex-soldiers probation, drug tests, and therapy to punish current crimes and prevent future transgressions. “It’s much more empowering and both the court and the VA are ending up with better outcomes. So that was one reason we went into it, to work more closely with the VA,” probation office Sarah Cohen tells WGBH News.
Law enforcement report increasingly large numbers of veteran arrests. The majority of veteran arrests, moreover, are associated with mental health, PTSD, or substance abuse. Veterans’ treatment courts hope to reverse this trend. “These programs are not a get-out-of-jail-free card for veterans,” Deutsch says. “But many who are being arrested were not criminals before they served. Something happened to them that is driving their criminal behavior…. We can give them the tools to emerge from the justice system and be heroes of their communities.”