Veterans Courts Up To 23; Should They Take Violent Cases?


Special courts for veterans, which explored in depth last November, now have been launched in 23 cities and counties, Newsweek reports. U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have introduced legislation to fund more veterans’ courts for nonviolent offenders. Whether these will serve violent offenders as well is a difficult issue for legislators and judges. The pioneering veterans court, in Buffalo, handles chiefly nonviolent offenses. That may not solve the problems in Colorado Springs, Co., where 15 former GIs have been arrested in connection with a dozen murders over the past five years. They never have been involved in the criminal-justice system. They come home from war profoundly different men.

Robert Alvarez, a psychotherapist with the Wounded Warrior program at Fort Carson, told a Denver newspaper it’s a mistake to carve the most violent offenders out of a proposed veterans’ court in Colorado: “The violent offenders need help more than anybody … the very skills these people are taught to follow in combat are the skills that are a risk at home.” A bigger issue with the courts has been raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which objects to the creation of a unique legal class of criminals based on their status as veterans.

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