Since the establishment of the first veterans court in Buffalo, New York in 2008, the model of the veterans court program has been gaining ground. This unique treatment program provides both a familiar set of structure and much-needed compassion to veterans in need of legal recourse, along with counseling and rehabilitation. Many states now offer veterans court services, including Nevada.
What is a Veterans Treatment Court?
The veterans court was developed as a response to the increasing number of veterans appearing in courts for committing nonviolent crimes across the U.S. over the last two decades. Over time, it became clear that many of their crimes were found to be related to or exacerbated by serious untreated mental health issues, like depression or PTSD, as well as brain injuries and in many cases, substance abuse problems that developed during their time in service.
The veterans court is equipped to offer veterans guilty of a misdemeanor level crime the option of participating in a voluntary treatment program. This program will address their mental health or substance abuse issues as needed, while also providing participants with a familiar sense of structure and encouraging accountability. Following a referral to the veterans treatment court, veterans that qualify can opt to participate in this program, which takes one full year, and which will be an alternative to serving time in jail.
Meeting the Needs of Our Veterans is Important
The number of veterans that return from deployment and find themselves suffering from conditions directly related to their service is staggering. Studies have found that 1 in 5 veterans return from service with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as other forms of cognitive impairment and that 1 in 6 struggle from substance abuse and addiction. Without proper treatment, these problems often grow, unchecked, with serious consequences, including behavior that leads to arrest. At this point in time, there are a shocking 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system, with the majority of those arrested for charges that stem from their service-related addictions, mental health disorders or other trauma.
Ensuring that care is available for our veterans to treat the conditions caused by their time in service can make an incredible amount of difference in their lives and the lives of the people who love them. Many veterans return to their homes battling depression, post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and addiction. Without help, these conditions ruin lives. Veterans have an extremely high suicide rate, as well as a higher chance of becoming homeless and of facing unemployment. Veterans treatment courts can provide the intervention that prevents some of these terrible outcomes for participants as well as give them a second chance that would be impossible without assistance.
The Mission of the Veterans Treatment Court
The Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) of Las Vegas describes their purpose very well on their website. In their own words:
“The VTC is designed to reduce re-arrests, promote self-sufficiency through employment and education and to help veterans remain in the community as productive and responsible members of society by diversion from prison or jail. Veterans will not be sent to jail if they comply with the conditions of the program and graduate.”
Treatment Programs Offered by Veterans Court
There is some variation from state to state, but a veterans court usually offers intensive and court-supervised 12 month rehabilitative treatment programs and/or counseling for the following issues and more:
● Mental health concerns
● Anger management
● Substance abuse
● Impulse control
One unique offering of the veteran’s court program are the Veterans Court mentors. These volunteers are veterans themselves and will be paired with individuals who are going through the treatment process. They encourage accountability in participants, similar to the way that AA sponsors support new members. Participants will also be working with a variety of veteran-specific organizations and representatives, including the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefit Administration, veteran employment and service organizations, and treatment providers.
In addition to the treatment options above, participants will also be required to attend weekly counseling and meet regularly with the court officers involved with their program. During this time, medications that are known to be addictive and illegal substances are strictly prohibited, though some allowances can be made for necessary prescriptions approved by their doctor. Other monitoring measures for participants will include random testing for drug use or alcohol.
Requirements to Qualify For Participation in Veterans Court
Because this program was developed to address the unique issues of struggling veterans, it is not open to the public and some requirements may apply depending on location. Above all, participants must be either veteran status or currently active members of the U.S. Military, and their mental health or substance abuse issue must be related to their service. Referrals to the veterans court usually come from the courts, prosecuting attorney or through the veteran’s own attorney. In some cases, individuals can be referred by their family members.
Other basic requirements are as follows:
● Participants must have no more than a very low history of violence, if at all.
● Participants who have been charged or convicted of an offense that is sexual in nature will not be permitted.
● Participants must qualify for Veterans Administration benefits – to qualify for this, the participant must have been honorably discharged and/or been on active duty for 2 or more years.
Program Cost to Veterans in Nevada
For veterans court programs in the state of Nevada, Las Vegas requires a court cost of $1,500 but allows participants to set up a payment plan of monthly installments. In Reno, participants are not required to cover the court costs.
If you are a veteran of the U.S. Military who is being charged with a crime in the state of Nevada and feel that the veterans treatment court could be the right option for you, please call our offices today. We offer free case evaluations and we want to help you find placement in a program that could turn your life around.