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Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

The concerning number of veterans in the justice system has caused many heated debates around their special treatment. It is essential to understand the underlying causes to assess the necessity to provide help with their reintegration into society. Nonetheless, not all people agree on the need to give veterans more than one chance at rehabilitation after committing a criminal offense, which requires additional resources.

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There are links between military service and criminal behavior that reveal the scope of the problem. Wolfe (2017) states that “more than half of all Vietnam veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reported that they had been arrested; more than one third reported they had been arrested multiple times” (para. 11). The scope of this issue demands a significant amount of attention, and it is impossible to drop a third of all cases due to the limited resources. As long as the issue with a higher number of arrests among veterans persists, these programs must be deployed continuously to help those who find themselves in trouble after serving in the military.

As can be seen, multiple offenses are not uncommon among veterans, and the lack of further support will have a detrimental effect. Without any help, stigma from being a criminal offender will make the life of a veteran unbearable, bringing them back to criminal behavior yet again out of financial need. Despite having limited resources for assistance, it is the duty of the U.S. government to assist veterans in regaining their position in society. I firmly believe that dealing with trauma caused by military deployment, however deep it goes, is an essential part of a social contract that government agrees on when sending people to war.

It is essential to understand that military veterans are as vulnerable as some invalid groups. There are both physical and mental health factors that take part in this decision. First of all, PTSD is a major health concern among returning soldiers, as it often affects their place in society (Finlay et al., 2019). This issue leads to depression, heavy drinking, and drug abuse, which, in turn, lead to violent behavior.

Moreover, veterans are more prone to suffering from various physical conditions. For example, traumatic brain injuries can affect one’s actions and be a crucial factor in criminal behavior. Finlay et al. (2019) reveal that traumatic brain injury is common among veterans and “is associated with criminal behaviors, such as violent offending” (p. 3). Moreover, other physical health complications that stem from increased stress levels, a poor socioeconomic status, and past traumas make veterans on par with other privileged groups when they face punishment for criminal behavior.

It is difficult for a veteran to return to normalcy, which is why these programs exist in the first place. Both physical and mental health complications make this process potentially unachievable or, at the very least, highly difficult. As the socioeconomic status of many veterans is heavily impacted by this fact, their vulnerability to health complications is on par with other groups that have such benefits as preferential treatment by the courts. Therefore, I do not believe that it is discriminating to treat veterans differently from other criminals due to the experiences they had that affect their behavior both directly and indirectly. Their position in society must not be the cost of their service to the United States.


Finlay, A. K., Owens, M. D., Taylor, E., Nash, A., Capdarest-Arest, N., Rosenthal, J., Blue-Howells, J., Clark, S., & Timko, C. (2019). A scoping review of military veterans involved in the criminal justice system and their health and healthcare. Health & Justice, 7(1). Web.

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Wolfe, M. (2017). From PTSD to prison: Why veterans become criminals. The Daily Beast. Web.

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