Top 12 of 2012: Veterans Treatment Courts Multiply, Make a Difference
As part of Impaired Driving Prevention Month, Sobering Up is taking a look back at the year’s Top 12 Newsmakers in the fight against alcohol-involved crime and Impaired Driving. This post is Part 10 of 12.
While 2008 was the launch of the first court docket specifically designed for military combat veterans, 2012 has been a dynamic year for Veterans Treatment Courts. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Veterans Administration, and an endless list of both military and civilian organizations now actively support and promote Veterans Treatment Courts, which are designed to tackle a previously under-served population: U.S. combat veterans who return to a life of emotional challenges, substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, and eventually, crime.
A disproportionate number of men and women who serve in our armed forced end up embroiled in our criminal justice system, and the vast majority had no brushes with the law prior to their service. One in four U.S. veterans between 18 and 25 meet the criteria for substance abuse disorders. And 81% of justice-involved veterans had a substance abuse problem prior to incarceration.
Veterans Courts are designed to rehabilitate nonviolent veterans who wind up in the criminal justice system through an intensely supervised collaborative program between agencies such as court officials, probation and mental health departments, the Veterans Administration and Veterans Benefit Administration. Fellow veterans who serve as mentors are a key component of the offender’s treatment team. Today there are over 120 veterans courts open in 35 states, with many more in the planning stages. One of the newest courts, the Milwaukee County (WI) Veterans Treatment Initiative, officially launched on Dec. 5, 2012.
These innovative programs are already proving effective in getting veterans back on their feet and out of the revolving door of substance abuse and crime. They aren’t without their critics, and questions on the preferential treatment of military veterans were brought to light in a November article from Bloomberg News.
But Veterans Treatment Courts are a top newsmaker for 2012 because the news was dominated, almost daily, by stories of survival, recovery, and redemption for veterans court participants. Last month, Sobering Up reported on just one of those stories, a Vietnam-era veteran in Austin, Texas. And it underscores precisely how Veterans Treatment Courts are making a profound difference.
Justice for Vets, the clearinghouse for research, data, and other information related to Veterans Treatment Courts, has announced their first-ever conference specific for Veterans Courts in 2013. We expect these programs to be another top newsmaker next year and beyond.