Military Justice Improvement Act Falls Short of Votes & Substance

xl_deptofdefenselogoThe MJIA fell short of the votes it needed to pass in Congress. But it’s really nothing to get upset about because the bill falls short of substance.

The MJIA had good intentions. It gave the victim a different place to report other then an immediate supervisor or the Commander. It would have allowed victims to report to a military prosecutor instead. The bill also included all violent crimes, ie sexual assault, domestic violence, and murder.

But in reality, how is that going to work? There aren’t enough military prosecutors to report to. There was one, maybe two in the State of Maine JAG office and they were located hours if not days away from some of the places we trained and deployed.

The Commander atleast is going to have to be privy as to why their troop is absent. They also need to know if they have an alleged rapist in the ranks. We can never completely remove the Commander but we can hold them accountable.

We can ask them to mind their own business, keep the information confidential until further action must be taken, and provide an environment supportive for the victim. That includes allowing the victim take some leave, get the help they need, deal with the legal process, and transfer if necessary.

A military prosecutor can simply prosecute a case. Why don’t we refer those who have been harmed to the police to make a statement then to a hospital for DNA evidence collection. The Commander is going to have to know what is going on with the troop if they are absent or will be forced to push Absent Without Leave (AWOL).

We need a system in place that ensures these Commanders treat people with respect and do not take action that compounds the acute stress in any way. If the Commander is not supportive, then they are part of the problem and the soldier needs a safe place to turn where they know their communications are confidential. How do we hold a Commander who behaves criminally or unethically?

Claire McCaskill’s military justice bill keeps everything status quo but does give us some additional layers of protection that provide some checks and balances. Until it is implemented, we cannot determine if these measures will work either. For example, have they accounted for corrupt military prosecutors or rogue OSI agents? What about an inspector general who is drinking buddies with the leader accused of wrongdoing.

Based on the work I have done with active duty in the past three years, I can say with the greatest of convictions that the military justice system itself is broken. This is definitely not the Commander’s fault. We are trained to be warfighters not to police our own. We need an objective third party that oversees helping our troops get justice, care, and help with moving on with their career seamlessly.

We should not lose our careers simply because we reported a violent crime. We should not be retaliated against because we are trying to hold a criminal accountable. How do we attack the internal beat down from our peers after the rapist claims that we made it all up or changed our minds?

We are not reporting for a number of reasons. Reporting to a prosecutor is not going to protect us from the situation we may be faced with. We may have been raped by a supervisor or maybe even the Commander. Someone is going to have to help us navigate being a military member who was the victim of a crime. Why don’t we just utilize the existing law agencies in place so we can work together on catching these violent criminals?

The nationally based, Crime Victim’s Organization says the following: “with solid support and information, many sexual assault victims do choose to participate in prosecution of an offender”

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