Judge Spends Night In Jail With Man He Sentenced

Cumberland County, North Carolina Judge Lou Olivera, is a veteran.  He served in the Army as an intelligence officer.

Judge Lou Olivera

In 2014, Cumberland County opened the second veterans’ treatment court in the state. Judge Olivera became the presiding judge of the court, which had its first graduate in April 2016. Olivera explains the court in the second video below.

Cumberland County includes Fort Bragg, and a real need was recognized to understand combat veterans who get into trouble breaking the law.

Joe Serna is also a veteran.  He served three tours in Afghanistan as a Sargent First Class in the Green Berets.  Joe has two Purple Hearts.   Joe received such injuries that he was not allowed to return to the battlefield and was placed on desk duty.  Joe began drinking alcohol to numb the pain.

Joe Serna and Judge Lou Olivera did not meet under the best circumstances. They met because Joe had been convicted for drunk driving.  A condition of his probation was that he not drink.  Joe had to take a urine test and he lied about the results.

To hold him accountable, Judge Olivera sentenced Joe to one night in jail.

Joe Serna

Joe says that when the cell door was closed, he felt anxiety.  He had flashbacks of things that happened in Afghanistan.  In one incident, he was the only survivor.  It gave him fear of being in closed places.

Joe thought that in his cell with no window, a locked door, and alone, that he would have to suffer the night with combat flashbacks.  Then he heard the cell bars clink.  Judge Olivera walked into the cell.  Judge Olivera was not there for a mere visit.  He spent the night in the cell with Joe, locked up, eating the same meatloaf dinner as other inmates, and talking.

Joe said it was a life changing experience.



Posted on 04/03/2018, in Happiness and Kindness and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. yahtzeebutterfly

    Xena, thanks for bringing this moving news story to us.

    Compassion, love and kindness across all of our country can transform and strengthen our society. May the day come when this happens!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yahtzee,
      Yes. The judicial system in Cumberland County acknowledged that vets returning from combat get into legal trouble mostly because of PTSD. The judge appointed to preside in that court is himself a veteran. It is said that experience is the best teacher. In an interview, Joe said that in that cell, it was not judge and inmate — they were brothers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        “It is said that experience is the best teacher. In an interview, Joe said that in that cell, it was not judge and inmate — they were brothers.”

        That makes me want to cry because it is so beautiful.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. yahtzeebutterfly

    Xena, I meant to post the above on the MLK page. Would you please erase this for me?


    • Yahtzee,
      I’m on the Admin side and cannot see “the above”. Checking other comments, you posted about John Lewis on the MLK post and here, so I hope that’s the comment you want removed here. (((((Hugs)))))


  3. Incredible judge! So many could take a lesson from Judge Olivera. Bringing humanity and compassion to the courts.


  4. Hope this is real news.


  5. Actually I would like for it to be real news. This matter certainly wiill be researched. Thanks for the post and replly Xena.


    • I must admit raising my eyebrows at the insinuation that I’m blogging news that isn’t real. Usually, I embed links to sources, but for this post, I included two videos. One was made by CBS News and the other by Cumberland County that developed the program that Judge Olivera operates through his court. Even if you think the video by CBS is not real news, you certainly cannot assume that the County that administers the program where Judge Olivera works is reporting false information. Truly, I don’t think I would feel offended had you researched first and found something I needed to correct, rather than insinuate that I didn’t do my research before writing the blog post.

      Or, maybe I’m being sensitive and it’s not an insinuation but a strong desire for good news rather than bad news, which is still different from untrue news. If I misunderstand,then I apologize in advance.


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