Veterans Treatment Court
Here are some startling statistics regarding our veterans, as provided by the Justice for Vets organization:
- Veterans make up one-third of homeless in America. 67,000 veterans live on the streets at any given time
- The majority of homeless vets suffer from mental illness, substance use and abuse, and co-occurring disorders like depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder
- Since September 11, 2001, the unemployment rate for veterans as hovered right around 10%
- On average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day
- 20% of the 2.4 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or major depression
- 345,000 post 9/11 vets have a substance abuse problem, including prescription drug abuse
- In 2004 the U.S. Department of Justice reported that an estimated 700,000 veterans are, in some manner, under criminal justice supervision – this includes probation, parole, etc.
In 2008 the first Veterans Treatment Court was founded by Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo, New York. By June 30, 2012, there were 104 Veterans Treatment Courts in the United States. You see Judge Russell became aware that the number of veterans appearing in his already established Drug Court and Mental Health Court was increasing. So, he reached out to the local Veteran Affairs Medical Center and created the first Veterans Treatment Court.
Now there are two Federal Veteran Treatment Courts in the United States
While over the years we have written and published a number of posts about veterans, including yesterday’s post about the movie NEBRASKA which tells the story about an aged alcoholic veteran and his son, we have never really delved into the widespread incarceration problem of veterans.
This past week Attorney General Eric Holder attended a Federal Veterans Treatment Court hearing in Roanoke, Virginia. Why? Well, five veterans were before Judge Michael Urbanski celebrating their graduation from the Veterans Treatment Court. Journalist Ari Melber reporting for MSNBC News quoted Attorney General Holder:
“The program that we’re here to celebrate today provides a lot for preventing recidivism, reducing relapses, and empowering veterans convicted of certain non-violent crimes to join their communities as productive, law abiding members of society.”
A discussion about prioritizing treatment over prison
Here you can see veteran and former Congressman Patrick Murphy interviewing Ari Melber about the Veteran Treatment Courts.
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
Keep an eye on the news and updates to the National Drug Control Strategy. It is important to remember that rehabilitation and treatment is always better than incarceration.