It's a new addition to the Judiciary of Guam. The Veterans Treatment Court caters to those who've fought for our freedom, but oftentimes return with invisible wounds. In a Guam Chamber of Commerce meeting held earlier this week, Judge Maria Cenzon explains the importance of the specialized court.
The Judiciary recently launched its Veterans Treatment Court. Within the first few months, Judge Cenzon says they have 26 participants. This number exceeds the national average and mirrors what the United States knows about Guam's patriotism: we have the highest per capita of military recruits by state. "Guam by the show of hands here, has the highest per capita of total military recruits by state. We are a 14,500 per 10,000 people as opposed to 8,500 per 10,000 people," she stated.
According to national statistics, more than half return from deployment with mental health conditions related to their service. One in six will struggle with addiction and one in five suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These invisible wounds make it hard to re-integrate into society which may result in unemployment, homelessness, or even arrest.
"Why a separate court? Again, the service to the island and the country we must recognize for the individuals return either untreated, undiagnosed and end up in the criminal justice system," said the judge. "There is no better, more deserving group of folks than those who have served. Why a separate veterans treatment court? There are 22 veterans a day who commit suicide. And that's an alarming number. It's something that has gone untreated, unrecognized, and something that a majority of the community does not even know," she explained.
According to Judge Cenzon, they're not in the business of incarceration, but rather reform. And much like a soldier's mantra, no one gets left behind - that's why the court is all inclusive, and not limited to those in combat or those with non-violent offenses. "There is personal accountability. What we hold our participants to is a very high level of supervision. Even more so than our other supervised courts. We bring the individuals for drug and alcohol testing. We make sure that they're in full compliance of all drug treatment programs for any failures of the treatment program, we do address the violation," she said.
Other jurisdictions with veterans treatment courts show participants are less likely to be re-arrested and ultimately help veterans return to the life they fought to protect.
For more information on veterans treatment courts nationally, visittakepart.com/returntheservice. If you're a veteran and would like to assist with the local veterans treatment court as a mentor, you can call 300-7267.