Like all the defendants appearing before Judge Patrick Dugan on a recent Wednesday, Piscitelli and Peters are veterans who chose to have their cases handled in a special court established for those once in the military.
More than justice is meted out.
Before the judge takes the bench, a volunteer approaches the veterans one by one offering help with such things as resume-writing and job hunting. A second volunteer steers them to long-distance runs and fitness classes. A representative from a community college discusses the advantages of higher education.
There's also a worker from the local Veterans Affairs medical center who's checking to make sure defendants are getting doctor appointments, disability benefits, housing vouchers or any other benefit to which they're entitled.
"This is the touchy, feely, kissy, huggy court," explained Janet DiTomasso, who helps administer the Philadelphia court.
The veterans court operates under the philosophy that many of the defendants who have run into trouble with the law need treatment, not incarceration. Some courts only take misdemeanor cases. Some only handle veterans who received an honorable discharge.
The evaluation of the nation's veterans courts is in the early stages. The Department of Veterans Affairs found that 7,724 veterans had entered the courts through 2012, and more than half were still being monitored and treated.
Of those who had finished veterans court, about two-thirds graduated successfully. The others were transferred to other courts, quit the program or suffered illness or death. Studies are in the works to determine longer-term recidivism rates.....snip~
Special courts for veterans expanding across US
Well.....I am somewhat conflicted over this Idea. On one hand I stand for anything that is a benefit for those who Have Served and Shed Blood for this Country. On the other I just can't see Special Courts being set up on a touchy, feely, kissy, huggy court. What next Special Courts for Other groups out there. Thoughts upon the matter.