Thomas J. Berger
Sentencing alternatives for veterans? There are dozens of specialized courts across the country that employ therapeutic programs to help keep veterans out of jail. "Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way" is a new publication that tells the story of these veterans and the judges, veterans advocates, and treatment professionals who are fighting to ensure a second chance for vets who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system.
The publication was produced in partnership by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), a division of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Veterans Health Council of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). The report is based on a series of interviews and personal observations of the judges, veterans, and veterans advocates who have been intimately involved in the founding and operation of veterans treatment courts. In this book, they relay how veterans treatment courts are "the right thing to do" for justice-involved veterans who commit certain crimes associated with the lingering legacy of their wartime experiences.
Court staff and graduates of veterans treatment court programs describe, in often exquisite detail, what their roles are and how they have come to embrace the concept that these courts, which use a carrot-and-stick approach to rehabilitate rather than overtly punish veteran defendants, represent what one veteran in Buffalo, New York, a key player in the creation of the first of these courts in the nation, has called "the most profound change in the attitude of our criminal justice system towards veterans in the history of this country."
Objectives of this webinar are: Introduce NIC's new publication "Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way" by Bernard Edelman, Deputy Director for Policy and Government Affairs, VVA, and consultant Dr. Tom Berger, Executive Director of VVA's Veterans Health Council; Describe the inception of veteran's treatment courts and their focus; Highlight successes and challenges of veteran's treatment courts; and Hear a veteran's personal story of the impact of veteran's treatment court on their life.
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 "National Strategy for Suicide Prevention 2012: Goals and Objectives for Action: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention" (p. 3). VVA also suggests that both the DoD and the VA should use the PTSD (post traumatic shock disorder) assessment protocols and guidelines are presented by the Institutes of Medicine so that "our veteran warriors … receive the accurate mental health diagnoses needed to assess their suicide risk status" (p. 5).
"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 combat veterans who commit certain crimes that are associated with the lingering legacy of their wartime experiences. They describe, in often exquisite detail, what their roles are and how they have come to embrace the concept that these courts, which use a carrot-and-stick approach to rehabilitate rather than overtly punish veteran defendants, represent what one of the individuals responsible for the introduction of the first of these diversionary courts has called “the most profound change in the attitude of our criminal justice system towards veterans in the history of this country” (p. iii).
This publication is comprised of fifteen chapters: so, you're (thinking of) starting a veterans treatment court; nobody returns from a combat zone unaffected, unscathed, unchanged; PTSD by any other name … can still wreck lives; a brief history of veterans treatment courts; Judge Robert Russell—"godfather" of the veterans treatment court movement; Buffalo Veterans Court—they're number one; the "top ten" components of a veterans treatment court; the mentor program—helping vets through the labyrinth; in the beginning—first set up your game plan; role of the players; Judge Marc Carter—what justice is; elements of the process; Michelle Slaterry—maven for research; success stories—in their own words; and questions and answers.
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 overrepresented in our jails and prisons.
For these justice-involved vets, Veterans Treatment Courts are providing a pathway to recovery so that they can be restored to functioning and contributing members of society.
Veterans Treatment Courts, or VTCs, provide hope, restore families and save lives. The first VTC, founded in 2008 in Buffalo, New York, has inspired the creation of more than 220 courts of similar nature in jurisdictions, both large and small, across the country. Hundreds more are in various stages of planning and implementation.
These courts have the support of the communities they serve, as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and local service providing agencies. Critical to the success of VTCs are veterans who volunteer to be trained and serve as mentors to justice-involved veterans.
This training program will: Introduce Veterans Treatment Courts as an effective intervention and an alternative to incarceration for justice-involved veterans; Identify the unique issues which contribute to veterans’ involvement in the criminal justice system at the local, state and federal levels; Highlight the inception of Veterans Treatment Courts and the role they play in improving public safety, reducing recidivism, saving taxpayer dollars and, most importantly, restoring the lives of those who have served our country; Showcase model Veterans Treatment Court Programs, including Veterans Peer Mentor Programs; Demonstrate how to implement and sustain an effective VTC, including the vital role of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Veteran Peer Mentors; and Provide resources and next steps for jurisdictions interested in implementing a Veterans Treatment Court or looking to improve an existing program.