The Promise of Veterans Court

By The Honorable Wendy S. Lindley and Solange E. Ritchie, Journal, The North Carolina State Bar,

Summer 2013 :: Read full article »

“When I got back from Iraq, I had a hard time adjusting.  I was emotionally numb.  I didn’t care about my family. I didn’t care about myself.  I found life to be meaningless.  I was filled with hate and anger.”   “I did not have the tools to deal with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and an amputation.  Instead of asking for help, I chose a slow suicide of drugs and alcohol.”

These are the actual words of veteran graduates of a unique program in Orange County, California called the combat veterans court (“veterans court”).  Veterans court in Orange County was established in November 2008 to serve combat veterans with mental health issues who have become involved with the criminal justice system.  This groundbreaking program – the first to be established in California and the second in the nation – embodies an approach based on compassion and healing, as opposed to blame and incarceration.

The program has attracted national attention as an innovative and effective way to help combat veterans overcome the issues that impede their full reintegration into society, while protecting public safety and reducing the costs associated with recidivism.