SERIES: Specialty Treatment Courts Aim to Help U.S. Veterans Recover From Drug/Alcohol Addiction, PTSD

veterans court

Veterans court is one of the newer treatment courts in the U.S. justice system that is focused on military personnel. The first veterans court was in Buffalo, New York, with a focus on medical and mental health treatment, assistance in finding a job, housing and transportation.

It turned out to be a great success, with many veterans getting their charges reduced or dismissed. Plus, none of the veterans who completed the program re-offended.

Veterans Courts in the U.S.

Since its inception in 2008, there are nearly 50 veterans’ treatment courts throughout the states now. They integrate both the drug and mental health court model to help military veterans. The program length ranges by state, but could be anywhere from six months to two years.

The program was developed to keep veterans who may suffer PTSD-related symptoms from being incarcerated without proper aid. Instead, in veterans treatment courts, they can go through a rehabilitation-type process with a chance for treatment, recovery and the chance to live a normal life again.

Who Goes to Veterans Court, and What’s It Like?

Most judges only offer the veterans treatment court program to individuals who were charged with a non-violent crime. For instance, some participants being convicted for a first DUI or DWI offense. Sometimes, active military personnel are also eligible to go through veterans’ court.

Individuals have a choice whether they want to attend the specialized court or not. If they do decide to participate, a mental health provider assesses the individual. Once the program starts, a judge continuously monitors their progress while they go through treatment. The individual will also have a mentor, typically from a local veteran’s assistance group.

Veterans’ Justice Outreach

There’s a program from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that works together with these treatment courts to further help veterans.

Veterans’ Justice Outreach (VJO) works to “avoid the unnecessary ‘criminalization’ of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans.” To do this, the group ensures that eligible veterans have access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services before there’s a decision made to incarcerate them. For instance, VJO will help justice-involved veterans in local courts and jails and assess them while working with the local justice system.

Specialty Courts Series

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