Officials aim to help returning military veterans reintegrate into their communities and avoid a life of crime.
A number of military veterans end up in the corrections system due to untreated combat-related illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — or PTSD. Bill Kloster with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs explains at a legislative hearing Wednesday how Veterans Treatment Courts can help.
“Veterans Treatment Courts are specialized courts designed to help stop criminal activity or dangerous behavior that could be related to the veteran’s military service. Nonviolent offenders who have been charged are given the option to receive treatment instead of a jail sentence.”
Kloster adds, if a participant fails to meet the requirements of the court immediate sanctions can be imposed. But completing the program could result in a reduced sentence or even a dismissal of charges.
Kloster says about one in six veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, which can manifest itself in many ways, including unmanageable anger, drunkenness, traffic violations, and even suicide attempts.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often leads to unemployment, broken families, alcohol and other drug addictions, and homelessness. These problems often lead to encounters with the criminal justice system.”
The service offered by Veterans Treatment Courts is anticipatory rather than reactionary. Kloster says the system offers an alternative to incarceration and saves money by not adding to the over-burdened prison population.
Wisconsin’s first Treatment Court opened its doors last month in Rock County. It was modeled after the one in New York, which Kloster says is already reporting a success rate of well over 90%. Veterans who have been convicted of violent crimes would not qualify for the program.
NOTE: Kloster’s testimony was at an informational hearing of the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs on Wednesday at the state capitol.