Veterans’ courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts in addition of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans’ Benefits Administration, and, in some programs, volunteer veteran mentors and veterans’ family support organizations.
Veterans’ Treatment Courts are responses to the growing trend of veterans appearing before the courts to face charges stemming from substance abuse or mental illness. Drug and mental health courts frequently serve veteran populations. Research has shown that traditional services do not always adequately meet the needs of veterans. Many veterans are entitled to treatment through the Veterans’ Administration and veterans treatment courts help connect them with these benefits.
According to government reports, there are 23,440,000 veterans in the United States and approximately 1.7 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as one third of the adult homeless population has served in the military and that at any given time there are as many as 130,000 homeless veterans. This population mirrors the general homeless population in that 45% suffer mental illness and 75% suffer from substance abuse problems. Veterans are not more likely to be arrested than the general population. But there are significant numbers of veterans involved with the criminal justice system, many of whom struggle with mental health and/or substance abuse illnesses. A 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report found that 81% of all justice involved veterans had a substance abuse problem prior to incarceration, 35% were identified as suffering from alcohol dependency, 23% were homeless at some point in the prior year, and 25% were identified as mentally ill.
In December 2011, California courts reported that nine veterans’ courts programs had been established throughout the state:
- Los Angeles County Superior Court,
- Orange County Superior Court (national mentor court),
- Riverside County Superior Court,
- San Bernardino County Superior Court,
- San Diego County Superior Court,
- San Mateo County Superior Court,
- Santa Barbara County Superior Court
- Santa Clara County Superior Court (national mentor court),
- Tulare County Superior Court and
- Ventura County Superior Court.
Additional veterans’ court programs are expected.
Questions regarding these local programs can be directed to the courts. To contact the courts, click here.
For more information about veterans’ courts, email: CollaborativeJustice@jud.ca.gov