Scott Turner: Veterans’ court idea wrongheaded
I read with great interest Bruce Brown’s July 26 guest column outlining a proposal to create a treatment court for veterans. While the idea seems noble at first, a thorough review of his proposal reveals it’s at best an attempt to pander to the voters who have served in our military and at worst an example of his lack of knowledge of the criminal justice system in this jurisdiction.
Mr. Brown makes an embarrassing comparison to his experience in a courthouse to what our men and women who serve our country face on the battlefield. The actual dangers faced by those in the military are met with courage and resolve that is unfathomable to many. When some veterans return home, the ravages of war stay with them. Their reentry into a normal life proves difficult. The military has admittedly been poor in addressing their needs. As a result, some veterans become involved in criminal conduct.
There is a reason Colorado Springs needed to address the issue of veterans engaging in criminal conduct. With two air force bases, one army base, the Air Force Academy and several other military installations, there are thousands of military personnel in the area. When these service men and women get shipped out for duty overseas, some return from their duty different from when they left. As I have actually worked in the district attorney’s office in Colorado Springs, I saw firsthand the effect war had on our soldiers. It was a problem that had to be addressed, and El Paso County should be commended for instituting this alternative to the traditional criminal justice system.
However, the Fifth Judicial District does not have a single military base. While we are lucky to have many military veterans in our community, they do not number in the thousands as they do in Colorado Springs. And out of those who do return to our community, those who engage in criminal behavior as a result of their service are few. When they do engage in criminal behavior, we are lucky to already have service providers in this community, including an excellent probation department, that can work with them.
Mr. Brown has no concept of what it would even take to initiate such a program. He has obviously not spoken to any stakeholders in the community. It took the collaboration of many to establish the drug court program we currently have. Then there is the subject of money. He claims such a program should be implemented “if” the resources are there. It’s nice that he proposes a program without even knowing if it could be paid for.
Since the beginning of my campaign, I have advocated for restorative justice programs, including treatment courts. The restorative justice movement is taking hold in Colorado and this community should be a part of it. There are programs from which this community would benefit by as dictated by the types of cases that come into the system. A higher priority should look at expanding our single drug court program and our DUI courts to every county in the district. These are examples of programs that meet a need in our community, reduce the use of court resources and can possibly be implemented without expanding the budget.
We do not need a district attorney with a penchant for supporting programs that are not needed with money and resources that are not there. On a local level, we need somebody who has actually been a prosecutor, has worked in the community, understands the needs of the community and will implement relevant programs in a fiscally responsible manner. I am that prosecutor.
There is no doubt that our veterans deserve our gratitude and respect. When they enter our criminal justice system their service and the effects their service had on them should be taken into consideration. It does not take a special court to do this as long as you have concerned professionals in the criminal justice system. Fortunately in the Fifth Judicial District we have exactly that.
Scott Turner is running as a Republican for district attorney in the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Summit County. Brown, a Democrat, is his opponent.
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