Va. judge has plan to help veterans who end up in court

Wants to create special programs to treat PTSD and other wartime injuries to prevent recidivism

By C1 Staff

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A Virginia judge is contemplating new ways to assist veterans who end up in the prison system.

“Sometimes, if they’re at parade rest, I see it,” Penney Azcarate, chief judge of the Fairfax County General District Court, tells the Miami Herald. “Or they’ll throw out some jargon.

“But unless they identify themselves as a veteran or an attorney points it out, it’s not so easy for a judge to consider the possibility that combat-related syndromes could have been a factor.

“And maybe we can address those issues before they escalate, prevent recidivism.”

She recently outlined a plan to create a veteran’s treatment docket in Fairfax, much like the veteran’s treatment courts already operating around the country.

Fairfax County currently has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of military veterans, and the courts continue to get a stream of veterans who had no criminal record before they went into the military.

Most who suffer from PTSD or other physical or mental injuries end up going one of two ways: prison or suicide.

Once a defendant is identified as a veteran and is placed on the special docket, the court would then connect the offender with the kind of services or treatment he should be getting.

Azcarate’s plan is to get this up and running by January.

“I just want to catch them early enough before it turns deadly,” she says.

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