A North Carolina judge did something most people would never dream of after a prisoner in a jail cell began to exhibit signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
He helped the man calm down by spending the night in the cell with him.
That man was Joe Serna, a veteran who served three terms in Afghanistan.
Serna was arrested for drunk driving a few years back and, as part of his probation, he wasn’t supposed to drink. After lying about a recent urine test in April, District Court Judge Lou Olivera judge felt he had no choice but to put Serna behind bars.
But those bars and the restrictive environment of a jail cell reminded him of a dire situation in Afghanistan in which Serna almost lost his life in a truck that had crashed into a creek. And Olivera, who presides over a treatment court for veterans with mental health issues, knew it.
Serna’s anxiety was on the rise, and that’s when the judge did something amazing — he spent the night with Serna.
Serna said the two men talked about all kinds of things all night long.
“We talked about our families,” Serna told CBS News. “The walls didn’t exist anymore. He brought me back to North Carolina from being in a truck in Afghanistan.”
Olivera, who is also a Gulf War veteran, said that he was concerned about what a night in jail would do to Serna, WTVD reported.
“We are more like a family, the court and the team that makes a huge difference in recovery,” he added.
Olivera said he had never spent the night in prison with someone before and didn’t know if he would ever do it again.
Talk about a selfless act. This judge gave Serna his time and attention — and that’s a precious thing.
This is the kind of respect our veterans deserve.
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