Tempe recently celebrated a one-year anniversary of a new program in its court system. In October 2014, Tempe began its Veterans Court, specifically to handle misdemeanor charges for defendants who are veterans. The concept was for veterans to go through a separate court procedure that understands their issues and that can provide education and prevention programs in exchange for mitigating the consequences of their charges. The idea, originating from New York, quickly expanded in the East Valley: after Tempe unveiled their Veterans Court, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Chandler followed suit.
Veterans Face Hardships at Home
Veterans often deal with difficult life issues such as alcoholism, homelessness, unemployment, and war-related medical hardships. Charges that Veterans Court handles can include misdemeanor DUI, assault, and disorderly conduct. Once the defendant has completed the program in full, the judge may outright dismiss the charges. While 220 defendants have entered the program, only around 50 have completed it, demonstrating the difficulties the vets face once they are back in “real life.”
Celebrate Honorable Actions and Intentions
Despite a seemingly low success rate, the concept is an honorable one and Tempe should be applauded for putting aside the resources to provide extra understanding for veterans with treatment- and education-based resolutions. The city hopes that as the program expands, it can see more graduates, giving more veterans a second chance.