February 24, 2015 - Since the main job of district attorneys is to indict and prosecute criminals, you might find it odd that many of those prosecutors are whole-hearted supporters of a system that acts to treat — not to punish — the problems of one class of offenders: veterans. I recently spent a few weeks looking into special courts for veterans, courts that have been set up in 220 communities around the nation both as a kind of payback for the sacrifices of vets, and as a center where those vets arrested for various offences can get help. The surprising thing I found was that DAs have gone along with public defenders, veterans organizations, judges, probation officers and a variety of social workers in supporting this unique brand of justice.
In San Francisco, the DA is former police chief George Gascon, a Cuban-born American who served in the U.S Army. He says: “These are people that have put their life on the line, many die … And I think when our veterans come back, and they are harmed in the process, then we as a society, as a nation, we owe them that support, and that includes the criminal justice system.”
After appearing in veterans court they are studied by a bevy of workers; they are evaluated by social workers and psychiatrists, they are examined by medical professionals and counseled by Veterans Affairs workers. Many show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder; many abuse drugs and alcohol; large numbers are homeless. Using federal and local money, the gang of helpers tries to attack these problems in each individual, who in turn must check in with the court on a weekly basis. From what I could see in court, and in the VA center where much of the “help” occurs, most of the vets themselves are enthusiastic to get a new chance to clean up. read more>>>