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.
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 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.