Justice Department to Invest in Expanding Veterans Treatment Courts

To expand the nation’s system of veterans treatment courts, the Justice Department last week pledged to award more than $4 million to 13 states and local jurisdictions to develop their own programs.

The special courts divert veterans charged with nonviolent criminal offenses to a court-supervised process that emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation by offering support from health care professionals, veteran peer mentors and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). There are now 463 such court systems in the nation, reported Military Times.

Two-thirds of veterans who go through the system successfully complete their regimens, and 88 percent of courts see a reduction in arrests, according to Justice for Vets, an advocacy group that provides funding and training for court staff.

Recidivism rates are low, according to Judge Robert Russell, who started the first veterans treatment court in Buffalo, N.Y.

“We’ve had 200 some-odd veterans who completed our program and probably only four or five who experienced recidivism. It’s been a blessing to work with veterans,” Russell said.

The VA has embraced veterans courts and mandates that each of its medical centers has a veterans justice outreach specialist who provides legal assistance to veterans and supports veterans treatment courts in their region, according to the story.

The Justice Department’s grants this year will go to court systems in Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Florida, Montana, Virginia, Missouri, California, Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Veterans court advocates had sought $15 million for programs nationwide in 2016.

“Our military veterans often risk life and limb for their country. … We owe our very best to help those who struggle with substance abuse,” Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer said at a forum hosted by the department to mark Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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