Veterans’ Court Worth Pursuing

Among the many things some veterans of military service sacrifice for us is their mental well-being. Some emerge from the armed forces suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other challenges that can make it difficult to function.

Sometimes, that lands them in trouble with the law.

Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato wants to give some arrested veterans help dealing not only with the court system, but also with the underlying problems that put them there.

In March, state Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy visited East Ohio judges and suggested they consider creating a special veterans’ court. Fregiato wants to follow through.

Last week, he explained his plan to the Belmont County Veterans Service Commission. Details are not “carved into stone,” he emphasized.

What Fregiato has in mind is a veterans’ court serving residents of Belmont and Guernsey counties. Judge Dan Padden of the latter county is working with him, he noted.

Defendants accused of non-violent crimes could participate in the court if they agree to plead guilty to charges against them. That would enable the judge to get them help such as professional counseling, “aimed at successfully resolving him or her of the issues he or she is having which brought them into the criminal justice system,” Fregiato explained.

“It’s going to be a tough program,” he added.

In other words, what Fregiato envisions is not giving the veterans breaks — but rather helping them overcome problems that stem from their service in the military.

That is an important point. Many criminal defendants suffer from mental and emotional challenges. Those battling obstacles created by their service certainly have earned some help from society.

Let us hope Fregiato and Padden are successful. Both local and state officials should be willing to provide help, in the form of resources not normally available to common pleas judges, to make the veterans’ court for Belmont and Guernsey counties a reality.