And Justice For All
As a federal judge, Rick Carnaroli ’80 has an inside view of the legal system.
And the power to make improvements.
That’s why in 2012, he helped start a veterans treatment court in his jurisdiction in Bannock County, Idaho.
The region already had other problem-solving courts — for substance abuse and mental health issues — designed to identify offenders who were more likely to benefit from a treatment plan than jail.
But those systems weren’t working for offenders who were also veterans.
“We were actually screening veterans out, because they were doing so poorly,” he said.
In an article for The Advocate, a publication of the Idaho State Bar, Carnaroli wrote about a highly decorated Marine veteran who had been wounded by a suicide bomber in Iraq and returned to the States with post-traumatic stress disorder. He turned to alcohol to self-medicate and accumulated three driving under the influence charges in 30 days.
“Due to his PTSD, ‘John’ was diverted prior to sentencing and ordered to successfully complete Mental Health Court,” Carnaroli wrote. “‘John’ performed miserably in Mental Health Court, failed to progress, and was sanctioned and jailed repeatedly.”
Later, Carnaroli wrote, his caseworkers admitted that the treatment providers available through the Mental Health Court didn’t have the training to treat participants with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries, particularly those from military backgrounds.
“I saw — and other people in our community saw — a need for something different,” Carnaroli said.