I just read a review of the book “Call Sign CHAOS” by General Jim Mattis, former commander of CENTCOM and secretary of State for President Trump.
One point that struck me was that prior to going into the Marines, he was arrested and went to jail twice! A judge sentenced him to weekends in jail – not disrupting his education as a young 19-year-old full of “piss and vinegar” as our parents used to say – giving him an opportunity to see what was ahead of him if he continued on the path he was on.
As a licensed mental health counselor who works with veterans I was immediately reminded of how many stories I have heard through the years of how the military “saved my life.” Stories where judges gave a choice of “jail or the military.” Without exception, they chose the military and were grateful beyond words for the chance to turn their lives around.
The military provided structure and discipline that allowed them to build confidence, leadership skills, and life purpose to become great leaders, such as Gen. Mattis.
However, what would have happened if Gen. Mattis had been sentenced? Put on probation, required to pay probation fees, court costs, had his record permanently tarnished? We would have no Gen. Mattis today.
I don’t know what the laws are today regarding a judge's ability to provide the military as an option. I do know that judges have leeway on how they sentence (within guidelines) and, based on my history with clients, when possible, the ability to be “voluntold” has a much more positive outcome for the vast majority of young offenders.
We might just have more “Gen. Mattises” in the long run.
Angela Michels, LMHC, Fort Walton Beach