Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki spoke today at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Inaugural Veterans Treatment Court Conference held in Washington D.C.
“The power of the Veterans court concept was clear, undeniable, and compelling,” Shinseki said.
According to Justice For Vets, The first Veterans Treatment Court was founded in 2008 by Judge Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York, after he noticed an increase in the number of Veterans appearing on his Drug Court and Mental Health Court dockets.
“Instead of either jailing Veterans, who have been brought up on charges, or releasing them back to the streets, you (Russell) have underwritten treatment as a powerful option for dealing with those who have broken our laws,” the secretary said, in recognizing Judge Russell, who also attended the conference.
The number of Veterans courts has grown over the past five years, Shinseki said. When he visited Judge Russell’s courtroom in early 2009, there were maybe four or five courts already established.
“Since that visit, VA has been your full partner, agreeing to bring all of its capabilities to bear, wherever a judge is willing to establish a Veterans court,” he said.
Last month, VA’s justice outreach specialists reported 257 Veterans courts in operation throughout this country—an increase of nearly 90 this year alone, with another dozen or so slated to open before year’s end.
Veterans Treatment Courts allow jurisdictions to serve a large segment of the justice-involved Veteran population as opposed to having Veterans appear before judges who may or may not have an understanding of their unique problems. Because a Veterans Treatment Court judge handles numerous Veterans’ cases and is supported by a strong, interdisciplinary team, he or she is in a much better position to exercise discretion and effectively respond than a judge who only occasionally hears a case involving a Veteran defendant. A Veterans Treatment Court judge better understands the issues that a Veteran may be struggling with, such as substance addiction, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma.
Find the complete transcript of the Secretary’s speech here. Find more information about Veterans Courts here. Additionally, 60 Minutes did a story on the courts in 2012. You can view that story here.