BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — Judge David Carpenter sits on the bench in the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama and sees men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life.
Carpenter said when a veteran stands before him, it hits differently.
”I think we have a special obligation to them,” Carpenter said. “My father was a veteran, so I was raised by a veteran. So I think we have an obligation to help them.”
That sense of duty and obligation led Carpenter to establish a veteran’s court. Carpenter said the program is an opportunity for veterans who run afoul of the law to get a second chance.
”I thought there had to be a better way,” Carpenter said. “We should give them an opportunity to get some treatment, get some help if they are willing to take responsibility and if they are willing to accept the help. We should extend a hand and try to help them.”
Violent offenders are excluded from the program. Most defendants seek treatment for substance abuse, mental health issues or anger management.
Carpenter works closely with Lynneice Washington, the Jefferson County District Attorney for the Bessemer Cutoff. For Washington, this is a program that hits close to home.
”My husband is a veteran, and I think it is an extremely great program,” Washington said. “He also suffers from PTSD. It’s just a way of giving back, letting them know we have not forgotten you.”
The efforts of the judge and the DA have paid off. The veteran’s court has a success rate of 100%. For Carpenter, it’s proof that this is a program that’s filling a need.
”Most veterans flourish in this environment when you give them guidelines and you expect them to use a little self-discipline, and they have,” Carpenter said.
In all, 52 veterans have completed the program since it started in 2013.