Judge Spent A Night In Jail For The Best Reason
Judge Lou Olivera once read a story about a soldier suffering from PTSD who had crawled down into a hole. While others helped by throwing a rope down into the hole so the soldier could climb out, a fellow veteran finally jumped into the hole, telling the soldier, “I am here to climb out with you.” The story always stuck with the judge. And that story is the reason the judge spent the night in jail.
Joseph Serna is a former Special Forces soldier who did three combat tours in Afghanistan. He came home plagued by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and turned to alcohol for comfort. Inevitably, his battle for sobriety landed him in a treatment court targeted at veterans who repeatedly show up in the court system.
"I've lost a lot of friends and I take my bumps as well and I didn't want to talk about it," Joseph said.
Joe stood before Judge Olivera on a parole violation, shaking and lying about the results of his urinalysis test. The judge had every reason to be fed up with Joe. The veteran had appeared before the judge 25 times before. But that story about the soldier in the hole came back to Judge Olivera, and instead of anger, he was filled with compassion.
The judge sentenced Joe to 24 hours in jail. He drove the veteran there himself. And not long after the cell door closed behind him, Joe heard it rattling open again. In walked Joe’s cellmate for the night — the judge himself!
The judge spent the whole night in the cell. Judge Olivera had served during the Gulf War, and the two veterans spent most of the night talking about their time in the military.
"It was more of a father-son conversation as opposed to a judge talking to someone and sentencing them. It was personal," Joe said.
Though it’s his first time doing anything quite like this, Judge Olivera is known for his compassion for veterans. And his show of kindness made a lasting impression on Joe.
“I cannot even put into words how I feel about him,” Joe says. “I look at him as a father. I’ve seen a lot of things, and this by far is the most compassionate thing I’ve ever seen anyone give to anybody. I will never let him down again.”
And for Judge Olivera, that’s what this story is truly about — extending grace so that our traumatized veterans are able to return to being contributing members of society.
See the unusual punishment from this judge that has everyone talking!