Momentum Builds for Nationwide Veterans’ Courts

The popularity and success of courts handling Veteran criminal defendants is growing.   Last month, Leila Levinson wrote in Huffington Post advocating for a national-level Veterans’ court.

Started in Buffalo, NY, by Judge Robert Russell 14 years ago, there are now more than 90 courts handling Veterans’ criminal cases.  They are modeled after drug and alcohol diversion courts, emphasizing treatment over incarceration.

Veterans who enter mental health treatment, avoid substance and alcohol use, and maintain employment, or stay in college, usually have the charges reduced or dropped.   In many cases, Veteran participants are picked by selective criteria, such as the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide medical care and disability benefits.  Veterans who fail to complete court-ordered treatment face a return to the regular criminal court docket, and possible jail time.

This week, Judge Wendy Lindley, who is in charge of Orange County, Calif.’s Veterans court, told the Los Angeles Times, “We are dealing with people whose mental and physical health is very compromised. We owe them, each one of them, the highest level of care.”

We’ll will keep you posted as the new Veterans’ court phenomenon takes hold across America.

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