Our Veterans in the Criminal Justice System: What is Being Done to Decrease Their Involvement?
Master of Science
Department or Program
Nichols, Jane L.
As the number of United States military veterans reaches above 20 million, the number of serious mental and emotional problem diagnoses, substance use disorders, as well as personal issues are also on the rise. With these diagnoses and struggles, the probability of veterans being involved in the criminal justice system increases. Currently United States veterans account for 9% of the United States population, while also accounting for 8% of the prison and 7% of the jail population.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has several programs and services available to veterans, programs established to promote overall well-being and to serve veterans that are involved in the criminal justice system. Despite program availability, there are still astonishing numbers of veterans that are involved in the justice system. Veteran justice system reduction programs for veterans have been implemented to decrease their involvement. These justice system reduction programs, which are known as Veterans Treatment Courts, may be the answer as they focus on treatment rather than punishment, resulting in stress reduction for the veteran and an easier transition to civilian life. Research suggests that veterans reintegrating back in to the civilian sector are at a heightened risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system especially if mental health and substance abuse is present. Although there are multiple programs and services available to veterans to deter them from involvement or assist with the criminal justice system, these programs and services are not entirely serving their purpose. Services for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs must become available to all veterans that need them regardless of eligibility or discharge characterization for successful reintegration back into the civilian sector and to ensure limited criminal justice system involvement.