Justice for Veterans: Does Theory Matter?
41 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 9, 2017
The Veterans Treatment Court (“VTC”) movement is sweeping the nation. In 2008, there were approximately five courts. Currently, there are over 350 VTCs and veteran-oriented tracks in the United States. Most view this rapid proliferation as a positive phenomenon. VTC growth, however, has occurred haphazardly and most often without deliberate foundational underpinnings.
While most scholars assume that a therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”) modality is the paradigm for VTCs, there has been little examination of other theories of justice as appropriate for veterans and the courts that treat them. This Article addresses whether an alternative theory of justice — specifically, restorative justice (“RJ”) — can inform the theoretical foundation of a VTC to enhance its beneficial impact on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), traumatic brain injury (“TBI”), or substance abuse issues. A primary feature of the RJ philosophy is that it is community-driven: it involves the victim, offender, and “community of interests” in the solution, process of restoration, and prevention of future misconduct. These principles are well suited for a VTC, which is also collaborative, community-based, and places extreme importance on the reintegration of the veteran back into society. These characteristics stem from an evolved theory that the community is ultimately responsible for the misconduct that was caused by the defendant’s military service. A hypothetical criminal case common in a VTC illustrates that RJ principles and framework may enhance the beneficial impact of VTCs. RJ may be just the theory of justice that brings to bear Sebastian Junger’s notion of a tribe as a means for the successful reintegration of veterans back into the community.
Keywords: Veterans Treatment Court, therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice, problem-solving courts, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, TBI, substance abuse, Sebastian Junger
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