One of the most problematic issues in the United States criminal justice system is the high rate of recidivism in several jurisdictions. In Arizona, for example, the rate can be as high as 70 percent; however, the rate drops below four percent when the offenders participate in Veterans Court programs.
In Lake Havasu City, a new Veterans Court program is enthusiastically administered by municipal judges who see the societal benefit in helping those who volunteered to serve their country in the Armed Forces. Veterans Court convened in 2014 as a way to provide assistance of veterans convicted of misdemeanor offenses. To a certain extent, the program serves as an alternative to the traditional prison, probation and community service that seem to do little in terms of curtailing recidivism; completion of the program may also involve enrolling veterans in the benefits system that they are entitled to.
Veterans Court is held on Fridays, and it may last as long as 18 months. In the case of the Lake Havasu courthouse, the judge running the program is a veteran. The prosecutors and public defendants are trained to serve the program adequately.
Aside from the mandatory counseling and case review sessions, Veterans Court also holds an annual family day complete with barbecue and games for children.
The Lake Havasu City is one of dozens that have been set up around the country to deal with the issues faced by veterans who enter the criminal justice system. It is important to note that post traumatic stress is a sad reality for 21st century veterans who served in the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. This often causes undue hardships when transitioning to civilian life. Substance abuse becomes a problem, and this is many times a ticket towards criminal offenses related to drug possession and small time trafficking.
California, Florida and Alabama are the states with the most Veterans Court programs. As of late 2015, Arizona had 11 of these programs available at the county and municipal level.