I believe that the prison system should be there to rehabilitate people. Of course, if someone breaks the law, they need to face the consequences, but I think we all benefit from having a little understanding in certain cases.
Judge Lou Olicera is a walking example of this. He is a former veteran who believes in actions having consequences. But he also goes above and beyond to show campassion to the people he comes in contact with during some of their darkest hours.
When he sentenced Joe Serna to a night in jail for breaching his probation, he was adament that Joe should be held accountable for his actions. But when Judge Olicera left the courtroom he did something unexpected, and his actions have moved people around the world.
A few years ago, Joe Serna was arrested for drunk driving. At the time he was given probation, and one condition of that was that he wasn’t allowed to drink. But when he recently appeared in Fayetteville County Courthouse, he lied about his recent drinking habits.
When a urine test proved that he had consumed alcohol, Judge Olicera was adament that Joe had to be held accountable. But unlike most people in the courtroom, the Judge knew Joe’s history – and there was no way he was going to turn his back on the man once his day in court was over.
“All hope was lost”
Joe Serna is a retired Army Sergeant who has served 3 tours in Afghanisthan. He has received 3 purple hearts for his service.
The Sergeant survived several armed attacks and a suicide bomber during his tours. But there is one day that he will never forget. He describes how he was travelling in a truck with three fellow soldiers when tragedy struck.
“The road gave way and the vehicle went under the creek,” he tells CBS Evening News. “All hope was lost.”
The four soldiers were stuck in the truck as the water slowly rised. Eventually, it stopped at Joe’s chin. He was the only man to make it out of the truck alive.
Since the tragedy, Joe has suffered from PTSD. He is terrified of small spaces.
“When I walked into the jail cell and they closed the door behind me, I started feeling this anxiety,” he says.
“I had to go with him”
Judge Olicera, who is also a veteran, knew Joe’s history, and wasn’t prepared to let him face his night in jail alone.
“I knew what Joe was going through and I knew Joe’s history,” Judge Olicera told CBS Evening News. “He had to be held accountable, but I just felt I had to go with him.”
So just a few minutes after Joe was locked up, Judge Olivera joined him. He stayed with Joe with the whole night, and says “We ate meatloaf, and talked about alot of things.”
Joe describes how the Judge’s presence allowed him to lose the feeling that he was trapped. “The walls didn’t exist anymore,” he says. “He brought me back to North Carolina, from being in a truck in Afghanistan.”
Judge Olicera’s kind gesture had a huge impact on Joe. After serving his night in jail, Joe has promised the judge he’ll never drink again.
You can watch a newsclip about the judge’s touching gesture below:
To me, Judge Olicera is a true reflection of what the justice system should look like. We should all try to have more compassion for our fellow man, and especially support our veterans who have given so much.
Share this story if you agree.
Published by Newsner. Please like.