New program offers convicted veterans another chance

Virginian Judge Ricardo Rigual is offering former service members the choice between incarceration or rehabilitation, asking them to clean up their act under the guidance of other mentor veterans.

Service members who choose the latter are given a mentor, set free, and are asked to commit to regular check-ins with a judge. The program has been described as “intense supervision” with veterans advocates saying that this forgiving approach has assisted countless veterans – removing them from the stigma of incarceration.

According to an article published by, “[Federal] lawmakers are looking to expand these types of veterans treatment courts, which operate much like drug courts and other specialty courts for veterans who have committed crimes that can, in many cases, be traced back to struggles with PTSD, TBI and other issues related to military service. A bipartisan group of 112 representatives in the House have introduced a plan to provide federal support to states that have adopted these programs by setting up a national network with oversight from the Department of Justice.”

Virginian Judge Ricardo Rigual, presiding in the 15th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, was quoted as saying “They have the foundation to be successful — to take charge of their lives again…We just kind of remind them what they need to do to get their lives back on track.”

According to the National Veterans Court Alliance, there are more than 450 veterans treatment courts in 22 states. The program guides veterans through the rehabilitation program. They are then assigned a coach to help them cope with the transition. With additional funding and support, these programs could be improved and would encourage more states to adopt a similar approach.

The article continued by saying, “While the bill does not require states to stand up veterans treatment courts, the alliance is advocating for that and would eventually like to see these programs at all levels of the American court system — from district courts all the way to federal courts. They also want each veteran graduate get their criminal records expunged. Alliance Chairman Luis Quiñonez said, “It’s a tough nut to crack because a lot of people ask why should veterans get special treatment? And the answer is because a lot of veterans face things that other people don’t have to face.”

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Relevant pages: Veterans Disability