In recent years, an increasing number of veterans have been involved in the criminal justice system. While veterans make up only a small percentage of the overall population, they are disproportionately represented in the justice system. In fact, according to a 2012 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, veterans make up about 9% of the state and federal prison population.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to veterans becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Some veterans may struggle with readjusting to civilian life after their military service. Others may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions that can lead to criminal behavior.
Whatever the reasons, it is clear that justice-involved veterans have unique needs that must be addressed. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is not always equipped to deal with these needs. That’s why it’s important to advocate for policies that recognize the unique needs of justice-involved veterans.
Here are three policy changes that would help address the needs of justice-involved veterans:
- Increased access to mental health services
Mental health conditions are a significant factor in many veterans’ involvement in the criminal justice system. In fact, a study from the National Institute of Mental Health found that nearly half of all veterans in the justice system suffer from PTSD.
Unfortunately, many veterans do not have access to the mental health services they need. A 2014 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs found that only about half of veterans who need mental health care actually receive it.
It’s important to advocate for policies that would increase access to mental health services for veterans. This could include expanding the criminal defense For justice-involved veterans, providing more funding for community-based mental health programs, and increasing access to mental health care in the criminal justice system.
- Diversion programs
Diversion programs are an alternative to traditional prosecution and can be an effective way to address the needs of justice-involved veterans. Diversion programs allow veterans to receive treatment and services instead of being incarcerated.
There are a number of diversion programs available, but not all of them are accessible to veterans. That’s why it’s important to advocate for policies that would increase access to diversion programs for veterans. This could include expanding existing programs and creating new programs specifically for veterans.
- Veterans courts
Veterans courts are a type of special court that is designed to address the needs of justice-involved veterans. Veterans courts are similar to drug courts and mental health courts, but they are specifically geared towards veterans.
Veterans courts can offer a number of benefits, including linking veterans to treatment and services, providing a more lenient sentencing for veterans, and increasing communication between the court and the VA.
Unfortunately, not all states have veterans courts. And, even in states that do have veterans courts, not all veterans have access to them. That’s why it’s important to advocate for policies that would increase access to veterans courts. This could include expanding existing veterans courts and creating new ones in states that do not have them.