Veterans Courts: Early Outcomes and Key Indicators for Success
Justin G. Holbrook
Widener University School of Law
Widener University Delaware Law School
August 19, 2011
Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-25
The growing trend within the judicial, treatment, and advocacy communities toward specialized courts for military veterans raises important questions about the effectiveness of such courts in rehabilitating veterans. Both principally and practically, veterans courts observers may take opposing positions regarding the appropriateness and effectiveness of placing veterans in a specialized, treatment-based court program simply because of their military service. This chapter explores these challenging issues in two parts. First, we undertake a discussion of first principle concerns related to veterans courts by reviewing research studies examining the link between veterans and criminal misconduct. The return of 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has re-ignited the still unsettled controversy over whether veterans suffering from combat trauma are more likely than their non-veteran counterparts to commit criminal misconduct after returning home. While firm conclusions may be difficult (and unpopular) to draw, the issue warrants attention in any serious discussion about the merits and best practices of veterans court programs. Second, we present early findings from an assessment we conducted of the practices, procedures, and participant populations of certain veterans courts operating as of March 2011. Of the 53 courts invited to participate, 14 provided a response by completing either an online or paper survey. Of these, seven submitted sample policies and procedures, participant contracts, plea agreements, and mentor guidelines for our review. Drawing on these courts’ common practices and procedures, we identify key operational components courts should consider in implementing veterans court programs. We also conclude that veterans court outcomes, at least at present, appear at least as favorable as those of other specialized treatment courts.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: veterans, veterans courts, criminal law, criminal justice, criminal procedure
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Date posted: September 19, 2011
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