Advocates Push For Alternative To Jail Time For Vets With PTSD

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Advocates Push For Alternative To Jail Time For Vets With PTSD

CREATED May 23, 2014

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Veterans across the country have pushed for an alternative to jail time for soldiers living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The effects of PTSD can lead to terrible places, including prison. It's a path many of our country's veterans face yearly.

When veteran Matthew O'Dell returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2012, he said he faced a lot of challenges associated with the disorder.

"The thoughts of ending my life were easier to deal with than continuing,” he said.

Violence is another issue many veterans turn to deal with the effects of PTSD. This often puts the person in the criminal court system facing jail time and a criminal record - all while never addressing the issue.

"Having someone there to mentor you is the ideal situation, but unfortunately those people have not been injected into their life yet,” said O’Dell.

It's the reason veterans associated with the Veteran Mental Health Council have been pushing for Veteran Treatment Courts, instead of city or county judicial system. Programs like these have been running in Memphis and Clarksville.

Veterans must complete the 18 to 24 month program, which includes medical counseling or they will face jail time.

"It's almost society saying, you know what, we know you have acquired these problems in life because of the service you have given to your country and maybe you just need this little nudge or the impetus to change and hopefully that change can come in the form of mentorship and court mandated help,” he said.

Each veteran would get only one chance to go through the program that O'Dell said is desperately needed.

"Really makes a change in that person's life, a change that would not have been there if they would have been incarcerated,” he said.

There are 158 Veteran Courts in the United States. Two of those are located in Memphis and Clarksville.