Coming Home: Justice for our Veterans
Two and a half million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan; many of them, more than once. The VA tells us about 20 percent come home with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD. So, that comes to about 500,000. For some, returning is harder than they imagined. The suicide rate for the Army is up 15 percent over last year. For the Marines its up 28 percent. A few of our troops return to become something they never thought they could be: criminals, for the first time in their lives.
Around Houston, in Harris County, Texas, 400 veterans are locked up every month. We met a judge there who saw them coming before the bench, fresh out of the warzone and he thought a lot of them were worth saving. Judge for yourself once you meet some of our troops, coming home.
Every Tuesday at 2:00 pm, the ritual unfolds at the Orange County Combat Veterans Court. Veterans recently returned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues convene in Judge Wendy Lindley’s courtroom. These veterans are standing before the judge at parade rest; feet shoulder width apart with their hands behind their backs. Standing by their side is their Veteran Mentor, a fellow veteran who knows exactly what it is like to fight in combat. This is a unique courtroom, one of first in the nation to help justice-involved veterans struggling with the physical and mental scars of war.
Rochester Veterans Treatment Court Judge Patricia Marks started a special court specifically designed to give veterans who commit nonviolent crimes a second chance.
When veterans return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan some face tremendous challenges, which can lead to run-ins with the law. Now a court in Buffalo, New York, the first of its kind is giving them the help they have earned.