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Veterans Treatment Courts. American Judges Association 2012 Educational Conference-New Orleans Presented by Judge Robert Russell. Outline. Who is a Veteran? Who are they? Justice-involved Veterans What is a Drug Court? How is a Veterans Treatment Court different?

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Veterans treatment courts

Veterans Treatment Courts

American Judges Association

2012 Educational Conference-New Orleans

Presented by Judge Robert Russell



  • Who is a Veteran?

  • Who are they?

  • Justice-involved Veterans

  • What is a Drug Court?

  • How is a Veterans Treatment Court different?

  • Why have a Veterans Treatment Court?

Veterans who are they

Veterans: Who are they?

23.2 million Veterans in the United States

5.2 million have served from the Gulf War to present

2 Million members of the armed forces have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001

As of December 31, 2007, more than 800,000 veterans of these conflicts were eligible for VA healthcare

Reserve and national guard

Reserve and National Guard

254,000 Reservists and 332,000 National Guard members have deployed to OEF/OIF

Increased stress on families, employment, and housing

Women veterans

Women Veterans

1.8 million of today's Veterans are women (7.5%)

20% of all military personnel are represented by women

182,000 served in OEF/OIF

5% of the Veteran homeless population are women

4 times more likely to become homeless than male veterans



  • Over 67,000 Veterans will be homeless tonight

  • Veterans 50% more likely to become homeless than non-Veterans

  • 76% suffer from a substance abuse and/or mental health condition

  • Criminal involvement is single best predicator of future homelessness



  • As of Oct 2011, unemployment rate for Veterans was 11.5% who served since September 2001

  • Rate for 18-24 yr old Veterans was 21.9%

Bureau of Labor Statistics



  • Veterans make-up 1% of the population, but 20% of suicides

  • Women Veterans are 2-3 times more likely to commit suicide than non-Veteran women

  • Suicides among active duty Army and Marines have increased following OEF/OIF

  • VA indicates 4 or 5 Veterans commit suicide each day

Traumatic brain injury tbi

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

  • Primary: Resulting from initial trauma

  • Secondary: Resulting from Intracranial Pressure (ICP), hypoxia, hypotension.

  • In 2010: 31,407 cases of TBI

  • 11,800 troops injured in IED attack

  • 28% of all military evacuated to Walter Reed AMC = TBI

  • Rapid evac + treatment = 96% survival rate

  • TBI is not only the result of combat

Post traumatic stress disorder ptsd

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Exposure to traumatic event in which both of following present:

(1) Person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.

(2) Person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

How common is ptsd among veterans

How common is PTSD among Veterans?

  • Vietnam – 15% men/8% women (31%/27% est. lifetime prevalence)

  • Desert Storm – 10%

  • Operations Enduring Freedom & Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) – 14%

    • Est. 300,000 suffering from PTSD or major depression (2010)

  • Repeated deployments increase the likelihood of PTSD

Combat experience oef oif

Combat Experience (OEF/OIF)

  • 78%Received incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire

  • 72%Knew someone seriously injured or killed

  • 60%Saw dead bodies or human remains

  • 58%Received small arms fire

  • 56%Had a member of their unit become a casualty

  • 49%Saw dead or seriously injured Americans

  • 33%Handled or uncovered human remains

Military sexual trauma mst

Military Sexual Trauma(MST)

  • Both sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurs in military settings

  • 60% of women with Military Sexual Trauma also suffered from PTSD

VA Screening, 2002-2008

Substance abuse

Substance Abuse

Among active duty service members:

  • Heavy drinking (five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week) self-reported at 20%.

    • Heavy drinking is higher among 18 to 34 age group than civilians.

  • Prescription drug misuse doubled from 2005 to 2008 ( 5% in 2005 to 12% in 2008)

Dept of Defense Behavioral Health Survey - 2008

Justice involved veterans

Justice-involved Veterans

  • Less likely to be arrested or incarcerated

  • Average 10% of criminal justice population

  • Approx 80% with Honorable/General discharge

  • 57% violent offenders compared to 47% of non-Veterans

  • Reported longer sentences for all crime types. -On average, Veterans are expected to serve 22 months longer than non-veterans

Bureau of Justice Statistics - 2004

Justice involved veterans1

Justice-involved Veterans

  • 61% of Veterans in State prison meet the criteria for substance dependence or abuse (57% of Federal prison veterans)

  • 54% of Veterans in State prison met one of two criteria for a recent mental health problem

  • Veterans in State prison (45%) and Federal prison (35%) reported symptoms of mental health disorders in the past 12 months

  • Veterans are more likely to report recent history of mental health services

  • Experienced physical abuse: 18%

  • Experienced sexual abuse: 7%

What is a drug court

What is a Drug Court?

Judicially-supervised docket that provides defendants/clients with intensive treatment and other services while holding them accountable to the court, society, their families and themselves

What is a drug court1

What is a Drug Court?

  • Judge, Prosecution, Defense, Probation, Law Enforcement, Treatment, using a non-adversarial, team approach

  • Regular court appearances

  • Frequent and random drug tests

  • Immediately rewards positive behavior, sanctions negative

Drug courts

Drug Courts

  • 1989 – 1st Drug Court formed in Miami, FL

  • 2011 – 2,569 Drug Courts in the United States

  • Drug Courts Work!

    • Reduce crime

    • Lower costs

    • Ensure compliance

Reduce crime

Reduce Crime

  • 75% of Drug Court clients remain arrest-free at least 2 years after graduation.

  • Reductions in crime last at least 3 years and can endure for over 14 years.

  • Drug Courts reduce crime as much as 35% more than other sentencing options.

Save money

Save Money

  • Up to $3.36 in criminal justice costs for every $1.00 invested.

  • Up to $12 for every $1 invested, when including other cost offsets (i.e., reduced victimization and healthcare service utilization.

  • Between $4,000 to $12,000 in Annual costs per participant.

Ensure compliance

Ensure Compliance

  • Provide more comprehensive and closer supervision than other community-based supervision programs.

  • 6 times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better.

Veterans have challenges but why have a separate treatment court for them

Veterans have challenges, but why have a separate treatment court for them?

Veterans treatment courts1

Veterans Treatment Courts

  • Hybrid Drug and Mental Health Treatment Courts using the Drug Court Model. Principals of both Drug & Mental Health Courts

  • Addition of U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs representatives, state and local agencies, and volunteer Veteran mentors.

  • Target those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

  • Jan 08 – First opened in Buffalo, NY.

  • May 11 – Approx 100 VTCs, many are being planned.

Veteran specific benefits and services

Veteran-specificBenefits and Services

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    • Veterans Health Administration (VHA)

    • Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Department of Labor (DOL)

  • State/County agencies

  • Veteran Service Organizations

  • Pro Bono Legal Assistance

  • Veterans affairs va

    Veterans Affairs (VA)

    • Medical

      • Substance Abuse

      • Mental Health (to include PTSD)

    • Homeless Services

    • Employment and Vocational Training

    • Education

    • Pension and Disability Payments

    Veterans justice outreach vjo program

    Veterans JusticeOutreach (VJO) Program

    • Outreach, assessment, case management for justice-involved Veterans in local courts and jails

      • Veteran identification

      • Assistance in eligibility and enrollment

      • Continued monitoring and consultation

      • Hand-off to VA and community service providers

    Vtc mentor peer programs

    VTC Mentor/Peer Programs

    • Volunteers with prior or current military service

    • Help Veterans navigate the Court, VA, and treatment systems

    • Assess “other needs” and help adjust to civilian life

    • Help the Veteran and Veteran’s family receive the services they need to be productive members of society

    Military cultural

    Military Cultural

    Veterans are used to:

    • Structure

    • Leadership

    • Loyalty

    • Patriotism

    • Camaraderie

    • Teamwork & Self-reliance

    The 10 key components of veteran s treatment court

    The 10 Key Components of Veteran’s Treatment Court

    Veterans treatment courts

    Veterans Treatment Courts have adopted with slight modifications the essential tenements of the Ten Key Components as described in the U.S. Department of Justice Publication entitled “Defining Drug Courts: The Ten Key Components”, (Jan. 1997).

    Key component 1

    Key Component # 1

    Integrates alcohol, drug treatment, mental health treatment, medical services with justice system case processing

    Key component 2

    Key Component # 2

    Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense promote public safety while protecting participants' due process rights

    Veterans treatment courts

    To facilitate the veterans’ progress in treatment, the prosecutor and defense counsel shed their traditional adversarial courtroom relationship and work together as a team.

    Key component 3

    Key Component # 3

    Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed

    Veterans treatment courts

    Early identification of veterans entering the criminal justice system is an integral part of the process for placement in the Veterans Treatment Court program.

    The trauma of arrest can be an opportunity for the veteran to address denial issues.

    Key component 4

    Key Component # 4

    Access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, mental health and rehabilitation services

    Veterans treatment courts

    Participants in Veterans Treatment Court may have different levels of need in a wide variety of service domains.

    Issues such as PTSD, TBI, Domestic Violence and homelessness may need to be assessed and addressed.


    Key component 5

    Key Component # 5

    Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and drug testing

    Veterans treatment courts

    Drug Testing

    Court ordered drug testing



    Use of results

    Key component 6

    Key Component # 6

    Coordinated strategy governs Court’s responses to participants' compliance

    Incentives and sanctions

    Incentives and Sanctions

    Coordinated strategy establishes protocols for rewarding progress as well as sanctioning non-compliance.

    Key component 7

    Key Component # 7

    Ongoing judicial interaction with each Veteran is essential

    Veterans treatment courts

    Judge as leader of the team.

    Continuity of relationship between judge and veteran

    Relationship from acceptance in program throughout treatment and commencement and aftercare

    The message is “Someone in authority cares”

    Key component 8

    Key Component # 8

    Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness

    Program monitoring

    Program Monitoring

    Measures progress against goals

    Results are used to monitor progress

    Results are used to improve operations

    Key component 9

    Key Component # 9

    Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective Court planning, implementation, and operations

    Veterans treatment courts

    All Veterans Treatment Court staff should be involved in interdisciplinary education and training.

    Shared interdisciplinary training creates common knowledge and understanding.

    Key component 10

    Key Component # 10

    Forging partnerships among the Veterans Administration, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances Court effectiveness



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