Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) are one of the fastest growing specialty court types in the U.S.; there are now more than 551 VTCs nationwide. Recent legislation will fund support staff at these alternative courts to assist veterans on their road to recovery.
Veterans Treatment Courts Increase Assistance
This fall, the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018 was signed into law, increasing services for veterans impacted by the justice system.
This act enhances the ability of Treatment courts to serve veterans; the VA will be required to place 50 additional Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists at VA Medical Centers. These specialists will serve as part of a team in a VTC. VJO Specialists currently serve in 551 Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) and other Veteran focused court programs across the U.S.
Veterans Treatment Courts and VJO specialists serve veterans who are or will soon be, part of the criminal justice system. The goal is to reduce recidivism among veterans by connecting participants to treatment services such as alcohol and drug counseling, rather than serving jail time. VJOs work directly with the courts to create treatment plans to address the reasons behind the criminal behavior of veteran offenders, many of whom are living with substance abuse problems.
Alcohol Abuse and Criminal Consequences On the Rise for U.S. Veterans
The VJO Specialist and court-ordered treatment programs address underlying issues like alcohol abuse and drug abuse, problems on the rise in the veteran population:
- 1.8 million veterans struggle with addiction
- 52.7% increase in veterans being treated for substance abuse from 1995 to 2013
- 81% of all justice-involved veterans had a substance abuse problem before going to jail
Alcohol abuse and related criminal activity is a growing problem for some veterans. There has been a significant increase in binge drinking in male veterans, with two times the increase for female veterans. Drinking more is connected to more drinking and driving and the veteran population has seen an increase in drunk driving of almost 60% since 2014. “There’s no denying that American veterans contribute to the nationwide epidemic of drunk driving,” a study by the American Addiction Centers concludes.
Veteran Treatment Courts are continuing to open across the nation; criminal justice reform legislation is ushering in options outside of standard sentencing and incarceration. Soon, alternative courts with increased funding and enhanced support services for veterans may become the norm.