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Veterans

"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; stories from prison; and books and research.

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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.

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Leave No Veteran Behind

Since 9/11, more than 2.5 million Americans have served their country in uniform. Many have had multiple tours overseas; for example, in Iraq for Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn and in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. To say our service members have been taxed over the last 16 years would be an understatement. Veterans are coming home and struggling with not only the physical wounds of war, but also the “invisible” wounds of war: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. They are also experiencing high rates of anxiety and depression. These veterans are not typically criminals prior to their military service. However, as a result of their experience in the military — particularly those who were deployed to a combat zone — some of them have difficulty adjusting to civilian life when they return home. Too many of these veterans self-medicate with alcohol or hard drugs to deal with their wartime experiences. Unfortunately, some of these men and women become involved in the criminal justice system.

As a center of learning, innovation and leadership that shapes and advances correctional practice and public policy, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) devotes a portion of its focus to the critical needs of justice-involved veterans. NIC’s first veterans’ project was a collaboration with  Vietnam Veterans of America. This partnership spawned the development of the white paper “Veterans Treatment Courts: A Second Chance for Vets Who Have Lost Their Way.” This paper brings awareness to the unique issues of the justice-involved veteran and also serves as a promising practices guide for jurisdictions looking to implement a VTC or improve on an existing program. NIC will soon be releasing a publication that will focus on specialized housing units for veterans in jails and prisons and will next look to highlight innovative programmatic efforts for law enforcement around crisis intervention for vets who are crisis in the community. 

In December 2016, NIC established the Justice Involved Veterans Network (JIVN).  The JIVN is a cross-divisional effort at NIC in partnership with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance and is inclusive of the entire continuum of criminal justice.  The network meets twice per fiscal year and its goal is to improve public safety, identify gaps in services, and improve outcomes for veterans who become involved in the justice system.

Please visit our Justice involved Veterans microsite to continue researching this topic: https://info.nicic.gov/jiv/

"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 personal, social and economic costs associated with incarceration. Even with these services and programs, justice-involved Veterans continue to face substantial barriers to employment, including the barriers related to a criminal record and educational and vocational deficits. To support these efforts to return justice-involved Veterans to the workforce, this review synthesizes research relevant to: (1) the employment needs and barriers for justice-involved Veterans, (2) assessment tools that can identify employment-related needs and job-readiness, and (3) effective or promising interventions or strategies for addressing employment barriers. This synthesis of the research on employment barriers and associated interventions can help to inform those developing and striving to improve programs for justice-involved Veterans seeking to secure employment. Ultimately, employment may reduce recidivism as well as serve to enhance overall quality of life, such as reducing homelessness" (p. 9). Results are presented following an executive summary that cover: what the employment needs and barriers are for justice-involved veterans; assessment tools that can be used to identify employment-related needs and job-readiness for justice-involved veterans; and what are the effective or promising employment-focused strategies and interventions for justice-involved veterans.

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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.

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.

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"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 effectively manage this population" (p. 2). Sections of this publication include: introduction; understanding the challenges facing justice-involved women veterans; symptoms of military sexual trauma (MST); identifying and addressing the needs of these offenders; veteran screening questions to add to established criminal justice intake and assessment processes; barriers to getting women veterans the services they need; and expectations for the future related to promising national initiatives focused on justice-involved veterans.

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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).

Statement for the Record of Vietnam Veterans of America Regarding "Service Should Not Lead To Suicide: Access To VA's Mental Health Care" Cover

"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 Judge Robert Russell in Buffalo, NY in 2008, there are now more than 300 veterans treatment courts across the country. These courts account for veterans’ military service and provide diversion and treatment alternatives specific to their needs. The development of a screening tool specific to veterans is now underway through partnership between the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). The assessment tool factors in the latest research on trauma and will support an accompanying case planning protocol. This Veterans Treatment Court Enhancement Initiative is a three-year project that will include implementing the tool and protocol in two pilot sites. The pilot site solicitation opportunity will be released in November 2015."

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"This bibliography attempts to offer a compilation of information on trauma-informed care by reviewing general information about trauma as well as focusing on the criminal justice system and corrections (women, adults, and younger people), peer support, and screening/assessment for trauma. In addition, definitions of many of these tools are provided" (p. 3). Eighty-four resources are organized into the following areas: trauma-informed care in general; trauma-informed care in the criminal justice system and in corrections; trauma-informed care for youth in the criminal justice system; peer-to-peer trauma-informed care; trauma; gender neutral screenings and assessments; and trauma and/or gender informed screenings and assessments.

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