Judges administer justice every day but Judge Lou Olivera chooses to administer compassion and empathy as well.
Judge Olivera serves on the bench in Cumberland County, Virginia. He presides over a special Veterans’ Court Program that aims to keep veterans out of jail and instead helps them to help themselves.
When it came time to sentence one veteran defendant to 24 hours in jail for a probation violation, Judge Olivera did more than just bang his gavel and move on to the next case. He took the time to put himself in the man’s shoes.
Judge Olivera served our country in the Gulf War and this particular defendant served our country in Afghanistan as a Special Forces Green Beret. The defendant suffered from PTSD, making the prospect of confinement in a cell – alone – particularly scary.
But when Judge Olivera saw the defendant trembling during sentencing, he decided that he would serve the sentence with him.
Judge Olivera explained:
I thought about a story that I once read. It talked about a soldier with PTSD in a hole. … A family member, a therapist and a friend all throw down a rope to help the veteran suffering. Finally, a fellow veteran climbs into the hole with him. The soldier suffering with PTSD asks, ‘Why are you down here?’ The fellow veteran replied, ‘I am here to climb out with you.’
So here’s to Judge Olivera, all our veterans, and anyone else who helps someone climb out of a hole.
For more on this story:
- Concerned about veteran with PTSD, judge orders him to jail and serves the time with him
- Judge spends night in jail with man he sentenced
And for more on Veterans’ Court Programs:
- Air Force veteran is Cumberland County’s 1st graduate of Veterans Treatment Court
- Harris County has a Veterans’ Court as well