REDUCING REPEAT OFFENDERS
I believe that people who commit serious crimes deserve serious consequences. I also believe that many offenders can be rehabilitated, especially when the root cause of their criminal behavior can be addressed in a way that protects the community. That is why I was proud to help start the Veterans Treatment Court in the 18th Judicial District. The Veterans Treatment Court was designed to support veterans charged with a crime who were struggling with mental health conditions, substance abuse, or brain trauma connected to their military service. Sometimes it’s a veteran who turned to substance abuse to cope with the memories of losing a friend in combat. Sometimes it’s a veteran whose family life fell apart from the stress of multiple deployments.
As a fellow veteran, I recognize that many military members struggle with trauma associated with their service, and we as a community want to help. Our approach with the Veterans Treatment Court was to closely partner with the Veterans Administration to connect veterans with medical and treatment services. We also joined with outside mental health and substance abuse treatment providers to ensure veterans had treatment options. Then we gathered community partners to create a network of veteran mentors who could support people who had entered the justice system one way or another. These mentors assisted defendants who were struggling, by doing everything from being an ear to listen, giving a ride to work, or helping them find a job.
We found the best results in our efforts came when we combined incentives to do well in addition to sanctions for violating the rules of the program. And the best way to find the right balance was to work as a team with input from the DA’s office, the Office of the Public Defender, mental health professionals, probation officers, and the Judge.
Ultimately, the results from this program have been excellent: In the six years since we started the Veterans Treatment Court we have seen a lower than 10% recidivism rate. That means less than 10% of Veterans Treatment Court graduates have gone on to commit a new offense. To put this in context, Colorado’s probation recidivism rate was 33% in 2017, and 53% in 2016.
In my experience, these types of programs can work and make the community safer by reducing repeat offenders. As District Attorney, I will support programs like Veterans Treatment Court so we can stop the revolving door of the justice system.