Veterans Treatment Courts deliver justice and help heal wounds of war

Read the Washington Post Letter to the Editor penned by Senior Director Melissa Fitzgerald...

The outstanding front-page article on Staff Sgt. Robert D. Carlson [“Criminals or victims?,” Sept. 21] underscored why it is critical that Veterans Treatment Courts be expanded to provide an alternative to incarceration for veterans whose criminal behavior is directly linked to mental illness and/or addiction. Left untreated, the emotional wounds of war can have a dramatic and destructive impact on veterans. If we don’t intervene at the critical point of arrest, we risk losing veterans to the system forever.

Across the country, Veterans Treatment Courts are proving that we can hold accountable veterans who commit crimes while connecting them to the benefits and treatment they have earned. These programs are full of men and women who, instead of languishing behind bars, are going back to school, working, raising children and living as civic assets.

Are these programs for every veteran who gets arrested? No. But without having Veterans Treatment Courts as an option, jurisdictions must choose between incarceration or release, with both options failing to deliver needed treatment. Veterans have fought for our freedom — shouldn’t we fight for theirs?

Melissa Fitzgerald, Alexandria

The writer is senior director of the nonprofit Justice For Vets.