EJF Newsletter —Analysis Of Veteran Arrests, El Paso County, Colorado


April 22, 2013

Complete report is available online in PDF format

Beginning in July 2010 an investigation of veteran and active-duty military arrests in El Paso County, Colorado, was undertaken based on daily arrest and booking reports provided by the sheriff. This report encompasses veteran arrest data from 2011 as the base year and data collected since.

El Paso County contains five separate military bases and is the third-largest concentration of military forces in the United States. All police departments within the county and all five bases use the county criminal justice center (CJC) for detention.

In 2011 ~3,200 veterans and active-duty military were arrested and booked into the CJC. Statistical analysis of these arrests and associated charges is summarized in eighteen tables, five figures, and four appendices. There is nothing in this data that implies the current justice system deters crime or violence by veterans. In fact, evidence suggests the present system is criminogenic. In many cases interaction with the justice system increased a veteran's potential for violence, up to and including homicide. Current policies of "catch, convict, and release" were plainly a factor in increased rates of homelessness, suicide, and homicide among veterans.

The wars of the 21st Century have resulted in many thousands of casualties returning to El Paso County suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the signature wound of these wars, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), as well as many other combat injuries. The characteristics of these injuries make it very likely that the veteran will be brought to the attention of peace officers, who often have little option but to make an arrest under current laws. As this report illustrates, that amounts to several thousand veterans arrested each year in this one county.

A criminal conviction often makes it impossible for veterans to obtain employment and frequently devastates families and children.

Cases involving domestic violence, an add-on charge in Colorado, are the most common basis for arrest in this study. Some 30% of the veterans booked into CJC in 2011 were arrested for domestic violence. But in only half of those cases did the charges include an actual violent act.

Behaviors characteristic of PTSD, TBI, and many other combat injuries are indistinguishable from the definition of intimate partner violence under current laws. As a result, the justice system, and concurrent legal abuse syndrome, exacerbates the veteran's injuries. The end result is a justice system, that, in effect, punishes veterans for serving their country.

Our analysis repudiates the widespread adoption of a drug-court model for veteran courts. In this study, only 13% of charges are for drugs or alcohol. Further, a "drug-court" model is of no value in domestic violence or traffic cases, which constitute the bulk of veteran arrests in this study. Treating substance abuse alone in cases where the veteran has PTSD/TBI is contraindicated as it does not address the underlying problems.

Another startling result is that while arrests of civilians tapers off sharply after age 30, arrests of veterans continues steadily regardless of age. After age 50 virtually all the inmates in the CJC are veterans and the county jail effectively becomes an Old Soldiers Home. Available data make it evident that veterans who remain in El Paso County after their first arrest will keep getting arrested over and over again.

Injuries like TBI are clearly associated with early onset of dementia and in many cases veterans are being arrested for that. Other biological factors, e.g., perimenopause in females, correlate with veteran arrests.

Clearly these veterans are bringing back a psychological plague that is not being properly or fully diagnosed, that is not being addressed at the critical time to prevent more harm and violence, and is spreading to family and friends. And evidence in this report makes it clear that the epidemic today will echo down the decades until at least mid-century even if the wars ended today.

The repercussions are magnified by OIF/OEF veterans who have endured multiple combat tours and survived injuries that would have been fatal in previous conflicts.

When comparing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with those from Vietnam it is clear that the passage of many new laws, e.g., the War on Drugs, domestic violence statutes, sexual assault and rape shield laws, has a dramatic negative effect on the ability of veterans to reintegrate into society. However, we find no evidence that these draconian measures have improved public safety.

Our study is ongoing and our next effort is to incorporate court outcomes for many of these veteran arrests now that we have sufficient longitudinal data.

Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

President, Equal Justice Foundation

Fellow, Geological Society of America


David W. Stockburger, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor of Psychology

Missouri State University



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