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The War At Home: Veterans Essay

2535 words - 10 pages

War is hell. War is misery, suffering, pain, and anguish. From the days of rocks and sticks to today’s high tech drones and aircraft carriers one thing above all others has remained the same; war is a terrifying, nightmarish endeavor. Unfortunately for those who fight for their nation, the battlefield does not remain in the far off land where the battle took place. In fact, those warriors bring back that battlefield, festering in the hearts and minds, sometimes long after their uniforms have been put in the closet to collect dust. It should come as no surprise that for a variety of reasons all stemming from combat experience, many of our nations Veterans will act in unconventional or perhaps even illegal ways, in an attempt to cope with the stress of their military service. It may be easy for some to say that these men and women, despite their service, are criminals and should be locked away like any other who breaks the law. However, if rehabilitation is truly a goal of our justice system it would not make any sense to take a group of offenders suffering from the side effects of combat experiences and throw them in prison, which is little better than combat anyway. This is why the advent of Veteran’s courts is so important. Due to their service, and the effects that PTSD and other service related conditions may have on their criminal behavior, Veteran’s courts are not only an honorable way to treat our nation’s defenders, but a way in which to protect them from the negative impact of incarceration. These courts, which are based off of drug and mental health courts, are designed to take less serious offenders, who offenses were related to their service connected conditions and keep them away from incarceration and into treatment (Cartwright, 2011).
Unfortunately the rise of these courts is a relatively new phenomenon, the first full time court having opened in Buffalo, New York back in 2008 (Cartwright, 2011). This, of course, was not quite in time for Veterans of past conflicts. While the Department of Justice does not currently seem to track incarcerated Veterans, by era of service (WWII, Vietnam, Post 9/11 etc) or by any other category for that matter, we can see from their “latest” report (If one can call 2004 late) on Veterans incarcerated in state and Federal prison that inmates aged 55 or older make up 18.2% of incarcerated Veterans, while that same age range makes up only 3.5% of non-Veteran inmates (Noonan & Mumola 2007). These numbers are, sadly, almost useless for several reasons, chief among them is that, as of 2004, the war in Iraq was less than a year old, meaning that there were few Veterans from the conflict back home in the states, and who had separated from military service. Therefore, there couldn’t be many Iraqi Freedom Veterans in the criminal justice system.
Despite being woefully outdated, the 2004 report by Noonan, a statistician, and Mumola, a Bureau of Justice Statistics policy analyst, does shed some light on...

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