I have been working for over four years to bring a Veterans Court to the Olmsted County and the Third Judicial District. A Veterans Court falls under the umbrella of Specialty Courts along with Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts and Family Dependency Courts, to name a few.
We have long recognized that men and women who serve in the armed forces, and in particular those who deploy to combat zones, have a unique relationship to their peers in the military. We also recognize that for a significant number of those deployed, the experiences they encountered during their service is life changing. Upon return, some struggle with alcohol or drugs, violence and simply re-engaging in family relationships. All too often returning veterans find themselves struggling in the criminal justice system.
Veterans Courts, like other specialty courts, emphasize intense supervision while offering an array of support services to rehabilitate the participant. An important aspect is to engage participants with a mentor, someone who also has served, reestablishing the participant’s service relationship.
I attended a Veterans Court presentation on September 7 at the Minnesota County Attorney Association Leadership Forum. Brock Hunter, an attorney and advocate for Veterans Courts, shared that often the criminal charge can serve as the intervention for a veteran, finally giving the veteran access to VA services and the structure to reintegrate back into the community they left when they deployed.
In tense situations, often a veteran will react like trained and conditioned, to fight back. “Combat Trauma” and crime waves from returning service men (and women) can be traced back to the Civil War. After WWII, 1/3 of prisoners in Minnesota prisons were combat veterans!
I intend to keep working to bring a Veterans Court to Olmsted County through a district model. As I shared with the Post Bulletin, they are a very unique population in that respect. “They deserve special treatment. They deserve that special opportunity.”