U.S. Department of Justice

Justice-Involved Veterans

On any given day, veterans account for nine of every hundred individuals in U.S. jails and prisons (Noonan & Mumola, 2007; Greenberg & Rosenheck, 2008). Since 9/11 we have had approximately 2.5 million American military personnel serve in combat either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both. Since 2001, nearly 1.3 million service members have been discharged from the military and many have utilized VA Health services for a myriad of complex emotional combat related issues, including: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), depression, and anxiety.

Despite these complex combat related issues and that most combat veterans had no involvement in the criminal justice system before their engagement in military service, these veterans or active duty service members are often being treated as any other civilian offender would be treated.

With the words, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” President Lincoln affirmed the government’s obligation to care for those injured during the war and to provide for the families of those who perished on the battlefield. Our goal is to help foster an understanding and awareness of issues specifically relating to combat veterans who enter the criminal justice system.

Current NIC Initiatives:


NIC Broadcast on Justice-Involved Veterans

On August 26, 2015 the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) conducted a live internet broadcast on justice-involved veterans, highlighting the significant role being played by veterans treatment courts across the country. The three-hour broadcast, "Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way", is available for streaming and orderable in DVD format.

This broadcast addresses the combat veteran and the issues they bring with them when they enter the criminal justice system at the local, state and federal level; highlight the key components of an effective Veterans Treatment Court (VTC); identify the “how to” in terms of implementation of an effective VTC; share the successes and challenges of implementing a successful VTC; provide resources to jurisdictions looking to implement a VTC or for existing jurisdictions looking to improve upon existing programs.

The implications for veterans, especially combat veterans, are extensive. These range from helping them erase any stigma from coming forward and dealing with their issues, to illuminating community members and justice officials on how to make these courts as beneficial as possible to the criminal justice system, the community at large, and most importantly, to the veterans themselves and their families.

Currently, there are more than 220 veterans treatment courts across the country, with hundreds in various stages of implementation. Timing of this project is critical, and most importantly, the broadcast will be of direct service to the field.

National Veterans Treatment Court Enhancement Initiative

The National Institute of Corrections and the Bureau of Justice Assistance have partnered with the Center for Court Innovation to develop the first set of specialized screening, assessment, and case planning tools for Veterans Treatment Courts. By incorporating the latest research on trauma, substance use disorders, and other issues affecting veterans, these tools are designed to help Veterans Treatment Courts meet the special needs of justice-involved veterans.

The Veterans Treatment Court Enhancement Initiative will produce three new tools.
  1. Short screener: A short pre-adjudication screening tool will identify veterans as they enter the justice system and measure their risk of re-offending. This tool will help justice system officials identify suitable candidates for Veterans Treatment Court and refer them for a full assessment.
  2. Comprehensive risk-need assessment: A comprehensive risk-need assessment tool will enable Veterans Treatment Court staff to learn more about individuals’ criminogenic risks and needs. This information will help Veterans Treatment Courts confirm participant eligibility and understand each participant’s risk-need profile for case planning purposes.
  3. Case planning protocol: A set of case planning guidelines will help Veterans Treatment Courts develop individualized supervision and case plans for each participant based on their risk-need profiles.

Pilot Courts

Center for Court Innovation staff is currently testing these tools at three pilot sites (King County, WA, Billings, MT, and Tampa, FL). Innovation staff will work with each pilot court to integrate the tools into existing court procedures and practices and will provide ongoing technical assistance to address any implementation issues that arise.

After being tested and refined in the three pilot courts and validated through rigorous research, the tools will provide Veterans Treatment Courts across the country with the first evidence-based resources designed specifically to serve the needs of justice-involved veterans.



Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
2016
Document 030018
Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way
By Edelman, Bernard; Berger, Thomas J.; Crawford, Gregory. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
"This white paper is based on a series of interviews, buttressed by personal observations, of key players in half a dozen jurisdictions where Veterans Treatment Courts have been operating with marked success. Neither graphs nor charts nor a plethora of statistics are employed to illustrate the protocols and practices of these therapeutic courts. Instead, proponents and practitioners intimately involved in the founding and operation of these courts relate how they are “the right thing to do” for ... Read More

92 pages
2015
Document 029869
Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way [Internet Broadcast]
By Henry, Heather French; Berger, Thomas J.; Edelman, Bernard; Stefanovic, Nicholas; Fitzgerald, Melissa; Russell, Robert; Schwartz, John; Burek, Elizabeth; Clark, Sean; Crawford, Gregory. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
This program on justice-involved veterans, highlights the lifesaving role being played by veterans treatment courts (VTCs) across the country. From WWII through the continuing global war on terror, there are approximately 21.5 million veterans in the U.S. today. So many of these men, and increasingly women, return home damaged mentally and physically from their time in service. These wounds often contribute to their involvement in the criminal justice system. As a result, veterans are overre... Read More

151 minutes
2015
Document 030140
Justice-involved Veterans and employment: A systematic review of barriers and promising strategies and interventions
By McDonough, Danica E.; Blodgett, Janet Carolyn; Midboe, Amanda M.; Blonigen, Daniel M.. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (Washington, DC). VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Center for Innovation to Implementation (Ci2i) (Menlo Park, CA).
"To better serve justice-involved Veterans, VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] developed services through Veterans Justice Programs (VJP), including Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) and Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV). These services and programs are intended to help ease the transition from incarceration to the community, including developing linkages to vocational training and employment opportunities for justice-involved Veterans. The services and programs may also address the pe... Read More

90 pages
2014
Document 028305
Statement for the Record of Vietnam Veterans of America Regarding "Service Should Not Lead To Suicide: Access To VA's Mental Health Care"
By Berger, Thomas J..
This statement explains the position of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) regarding older veteran suicides. Older veterans are over the age of 50. This group commits 66% of all veteran suicides. "VVA strongly suggests that until VA mental health services develops a nationwide strategy to address the problem of suicide among our older veterans – particularly Vietnam-era veterans – it should immediately adopt and implement the appropriate suicide risk and preventive factors found in the "Natio... Read More
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10 pages
2012
Document 028300
A Re-Entry Roadmap for Veterans Incarcerated in Virginia: Re-entry Manual
By Mead, Martha Johnson, editor; Atkins, Anne Clark, editor. U. S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Health Care for Re-entry Veterans (HCRV) (Washington, DC); U. S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Program (Washington, DC); Virginia Dept. of Veterans Services. Virginia Wounded Warrior Program (Richmond, VA); Virginia Dept. of Corrections (Richmond, VA).
While designed specifically for veterans returning to the community after incarceration, this manual is a good example for other states developing or revising their own veteran re-entry manuals. Sections cover: VA benefits during incarceration; getting started—Virginia Community Re-entry Initiative, Virginia department of Veterans Services, Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, healthcare, employment, financial assistance, legal assistance, women veterans, and additional services; resources availabl... Read More
PDF
57 pages
2013
Document 028304
A Guidebook for Incarcerated Veterans in Wisconsin|Revised [edition]
Wisconsin Multi-Agency Taskforce on Incarcerated Veterans (Madison, WI).
'This booklet is a tool for Incarcerated Veterans and their families who may want access to support services that promote a better and new manner of living ' When these programs are used properly, the benefits may help to minimize the outside pressures incarcerated veterans experience when released. This guidebook addresses the process of economics, social acceptance and reestablishment for incarcerated veterans as they return to society' (p. iii). Sections of this document include: using this g... Read More
PDF
43 pages
2013
Document 028183
Responding to the Needs of Women Veterans Involved in the Criminal Justice System
By Ramirez, Rachelle; Van Dieten, Marilyn. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJS) (Washington, DC). National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW) (Silver Spring, MD).
"As criminal justice practitioners, we need to understand that the issues facing women veterans in the justice system may be complex as a result of untreated trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse, and their unique military experiences. We must better prepare ourselves to respond. This document highlights the unique experiences and needs of women veterans who become justice-involved and offers a gender and trauma informed approach that criminal justice practitioners can use to more effectiv... Read More
PDF
16 pages
2012
Document 026746
Volunteer Veteran Mentors Training Program
Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System (Harrisburg, PA); Robert Morris University (Moon Township, PA).
This on-line training program is designed for individuals wanting to become volunteer mentors in Veterans Courts. 'Volunteer Veteran Mentors are a key component to Veterans Courts. Shared war and combat experiences create an enduring and therapeutic trust that can be a stronger bond among returning veterans than in some cases with families and friends. The volunteer mentor develops a supportive relationship with the Veterans Court participant, acting as an advocate and ally.' Points of entry to ... Read More
WEB

Related Resources

Date Title Type
2016
Document 030018
Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way
By Edelman, Bernard; Berger, Thomas J.; Crawford, Gregory. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
"This white paper is based on a series of interviews, buttressed by personal observations, of key players in half a dozen jurisdictions where Veterans Treatment Courts have been operating with marked success. Neither graphs nor charts nor a plethora of statistics are employed to illustrate the protocols and practices of these therapeutic courts. Instead, proponents and practitioners intimately involved in the founding and operation of these courts relate how they are “the right thing to do” for ... Read More

92 pages
2015
Document 029869
Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way [Internet Broadcast]
By Henry, Heather French; Berger, Thomas J.; Edelman, Bernard; Stefanovic, Nicholas; Fitzgerald, Melissa; Russell, Robert; Schwartz, John; Burek, Elizabeth; Clark, Sean; Crawford, Gregory. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
This program on justice-involved veterans, highlights the lifesaving role being played by veterans treatment courts (VTCs) across the country. From WWII through the continuing global war on terror, there are approximately 21.5 million veterans in the U.S. today. So many of these men, and increasingly women, return home damaged mentally and physically from their time in service. These wounds often contribute to their involvement in the criminal justice system. As a result, veterans are overre... Read More

151 minutes
2015
Document 030140
Justice-involved Veterans and employment: A systematic review of barriers and promising strategies and interventions
By McDonough, Danica E.; Blodgett, Janet Carolyn; Midboe, Amanda M.; Blonigen, Daniel M.. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (Washington, DC). VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Center for Innovation to Implementation (Ci2i) (Menlo Park, CA).
"To better serve justice-involved Veterans, VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] developed services through Veterans Justice Programs (VJP), including Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) and Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV). These services and programs are intended to help ease the transition from incarceration to the community, including developing linkages to vocational training and employment opportunities for justice-involved Veterans. The services and programs may also address the pe... Read More

90 pages
2015
Document 030007
Insight-Out
Insight-Out (San Rafael, CA).
"Insight-Out organizes initiatives for prisoners and challenged youth that create the personal and systemic change to transform violence and suffering into opportunities for learning and healing." These initiatives are: GRIP (Guiding Rage into Power); Veterans Healing Veterans; Prison Mindfulness Initiative (PMI); At Risk Youth; and Prison Reform. Points of entry include: about us; programs; training/talks; Insights blog; latest news; newsletter; A Blast From The Past; audio presentations; stori... Read More

2015
Document 031383
Veterans In Prison And Jail, 2011–2012
By Berzofsky, Marcus; Bronson, Jennifer; Carson, E. Ann; Noonan, Margaret. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJA) (Washington, DC).
This report presents "counts and rates of veterans in state and federal prison and local jail in 2011 and 2012. This report describes incarcerated veterans by demographic characteristics, military characteristics, and disability and mental health status. It describes current offense, sentencing, and criminal history characteristics by veteran status. It also examines combat experience associated with lifetime mental health disorders among incarcerated veterans … Highlights: The number of veteran... Read More

22 pages
2015
Document 031392
Health Correlates of Criminal Justice Involvement in 4,793 Transgender Veterans
By Brown, George R.; Jones, Kenneth T..
"Transgender (TG) persons are overrepresented in prison settings and in the U.S. veteran population. Health disparities studies of large populations of transgender people involved with the criminal justice system have not been published to date … "This investigation sought to describe characteristics associated with JI in a sample of veterans with TG identification and to determine whether health disparities exist when compared to non-TG veterans with a JI history" (p. 297, 298). Results are pre... Read More

9 pages
2015
Document 031347
Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty
By Dieter, Richard C.. Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) (Washington, DC).
"In many respects, veterans in the United States are again receiving the respect and gratitude they deserve for having risked their lives and served their country. Wounded soldiers are welcomed home, and their courage in starting a new and difficult journey in civilian life is rightly applauded. But some veterans with debilitating scars from their time in combat have received a very different reception … Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who have committed heinous crimes presen... Read More

42 pages
2015
Document 031329
The Growth of Veterans Treatment Courts [Podcast]
By Arnold, Aaron; Qazilbash, Ruby; Crawford, Greg. DC Public Safety (Washington, DC) .
"Veterans Treatment Courts are one of the fastest growing criminal justice programs in the United States. Since 9/11, more than 2.5 million Americans have served our country in uniform. Many of them have deployed several times. And many of these men and women in uniform are coming home and struggling not only with the physical wounds of war, but also its “invisible” wounds: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Since the inception of the first Veterans Treatment Court by Ju... Read More

29 minutes
2014
Document 030029
Veterans Treatment Courts: Do Status-Based Problem-Solving Courts Create an Improper Privileged Class of Criminal Defendants?
By Jones, Allison E.. Washington University Law School Open Scholarship.
"Although veterans treatment courts themselves are a recent and developing innovation, veteran status and its intersection with criminal sentencing considerations has an increasingly substantial legal basis to draw on. Prior to the expansion of problem-solving courts to reach veterans, many state-level trial court judges already considered military service-related disorders as potential mitigating factors. More recently, several states have either passed or proposed legislation designating veter... Read More

26 pages
2014
Document 028019
Veterans Treatment Court Locations
Justice for Vets (Alexandria, VA).
This map shows the locations of veteran treatment courts throughout the United States.... Read More
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2014
Document 029654
Veteran’s Treatment Courts-National Institute of Corrections
By Crawford, Greg; Fitzgerald, Melissa; Edelman, Bernard; Sipes, Leonard. DC Public Safety (Washington, DC).
"The program examined Veteran’s Courts, a component of the highly successful drug court concept. Veteran courts are growing rapidly throughout the United States with early indications of success."... Read More
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30 minutes
2014
Document 028021
Justice for Vets
Justice for Vets (Alexandria, VA).
This website explains the important role veterans treatment courts play in the lives of justice-involved veterans. Resources include: Resources for Court Professionals; Dispatches from the Front Line; Veteran Mentors; Mentor Court Program; Veterans Treatment Court Planning Initiative; Legislation-- pertaining to justice-involved veterans and Veterans Treatment Courts; and Studies and Statistics.... Read More
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