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Justice-Involved Veterans Compendium Project

This paper is the fourth in the National Institute of Corrections justice-involved veteran compendium project. It illuminates programs in prisons across the country whose goal is to prevent recidivism by justice-involved veterans, and by so doing improve the safety of law enforcement officers, correctional officers, inmates, and the public. It illustrates the design/development, implementation, and sustainment of initiatives taken by corrections officials who have set up specialized housing—in pods, dorms, units, wings, or floors—and programming for military veterans.

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The purpose of Veterans Treatment Courts is to offer vets with a substance use problem and/or diagnosis of a mental health issue an opportunity to avail themselves of treatment-oriented justice. Based on anecdotal evidence and an increasing accretion of data from the field—in many of the projects funded by the National Institute of Corrections and the Bureau of Justice Assistance—these courts appear to be achieving their goal. They are helping worthy individuals find a degree of redemption while paying their debt to society. They are restoring family relationships, strengthening communities, cutting rates of recidivism and, hence, making communities safer.

But what of those veterans who are incarcerated, serving a sentence, or awaiting trial or other resolution of the charges against them?

This paper is the second in the National Institute of Corrections justice-involved veteran compendium project. It illuminates programs in jails across the country and how justice involved veterans have been helped by them. It illustrates the design, development, implementation, and sustainment of initiatives taken by enlightened, pragmatic corrections officials who have set up veteran-specific housing—in pods, dorms, units, wings, or floors—and programming for military veterans.

Barracks Behind Bars introduces several of the facilities and the men and women whose vision is paying off with reportedly fewer behavioral problems and incidents of violence by incarcerated veterans. This may contribute to a less stressful, safer environment for correctional personnel and facilitates opportunities for assistance from the Veterans Justice Outreach specialists of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, personnel from state and county departments, and volunteers from community and veterans organizations. This white paper shares the views of jail administrators, judges, and formerly incarcerated veterans—each of whom have stories to tell—in their own words.

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This white paper is based on a series of interviews, buttressed by personal observations, of key players in several jurisdictions where law enforcement officers, Veteran Justice Outreach Specialists from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and community-based agency representatives collaborate to implement approaches to de-escalate veterans in crisis in our communities. These programs are improving public safety. They are creating opportunities for veterans struggling to re-acclimate to civilian life. These traumatized men- and increasingly women- receive the help they need to address mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, related to their military service.

This is the third publication in the National Institute of Corrections justice-involved veterans compendium project. It shares the views of law enforcement programs at several locations across the country, from small towns to large cities, and highlights how each jurisdiction went about creating and implementing teams or programs to improve practices meant to serve veterans who are in crisis.

Veteran Response Teams are improving outcomes for these veterans and minimizing hostile and sometimes volatile situations for both law enforcement officers and veterans. This paper shares the views of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections professionals, representatives from the VA and other community-based treatment providers, each of whom, in their own words, have stories to tell.

"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.

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