We need more Veterans Courts

“Roughly one in 12 people in America’s prisons and jails is a veteran. Often, they’ve ended up in prison because of behavior resulting from injuries and trauma sustained during service. Many are serving absurdly long sentences for low-level drug offenses, having turned to drugs as a way of coping with PTSD and adjusting to life after tours of duty. And almost always, they are forgotten on this solemn day.”

If you or your family member are a veteran and are caught in the modern American criminal justice system, contact the VA Veterans Justice Outreach.  Its mission:

The aim of the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program is to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among Veterans by ensuring that eligible, justice-involved Veterans have timely access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services, as clinically indicated. VJO specialists provide direct outreach, assessment and case management for justice-involved Veterans in local courts and jails and liaison with local justice system partners.

More critically, Alabama has made strides towards establishment of Veterans Courts in each county in the state. There are approximately 20 Veterans courts active in Alabama. A Veterans court allows veterans charged with a crime to complete a program of treatment and counseling in exchange for dismissing the charges. Its not easy though. For instance, in Baldwin County,

Those efforts kicked off the court one year ago with a focus on helping veterans facing criminal charges to get their records expunged. The kicker: They have to attend the court every Tuesday, accomplish a series of tasks, and maintain a clean record for one year. . . For the veterans who attend the court, they will work through their problems – whether it’s drug or alcohol addiction, or something else – with a “team” that consists of a coordinator, defense attorney (who is a veteran), a prosecutor from the District Attorney’s Office, a volunteer from AltaPointe who specializes in substance abuse and treatment (also a veteran), a veterans’ outreach specialist from the Veterans Administration, a counselor, a volunteer life coach, and a team of 15 mentors.