Legislators in Missouri want a court created specifically for veterans.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, has drafted legislation requesting that Missouri circuit courts create a place specifically for current and former U.S. military who are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness issues. Barnes stated that the country owes it to the veterans to get them the treatment they need to get their lives back on track.
The idea is supported by Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, who said the vet treatment court would run like a drug courts, where a judge would have the ability sentence a defendant to a rehabilitation facility or to perform some community service, without mandatory prison or jail time. Judges overseeing a veterans court can use the power of the court to force a vet to get treatment; proponents believe that recidivism rates for vets processed through a specialized vet court are lower than for those vets who do not go through a veterans court.
The court would be well-versed in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) issues as well as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) issues, two conditions which can lead to law-breaking behaviors among military vets back in civilian life. According to a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vets with PTSD or TBI are far more likely than vets without either condition to be arrested. The bill currently proposed would not only help vets get treatment while taking into count their specific circumstances, the court would also be able to more efficiently deal with the backlog of veterans with court issues.
Objections that were previously raised in the Senate when discussing a veterans court included concerns from some that it would be used for veterans accused of committing violent crimes.
The veteran’s court model includes veteran mentors who assist with the program. While some systems vary, generally, a collaborative team made up of the judge, probation officers, a public defender, and a Veterans Administration representative get together to review cases to decide which veterans will be admitted to veterans court for a multi-phase, long-term system.
The first veterans court of this type was put into place in Buffalo, New York, in 2008. As of 2011, there were no reports of recidivism among the vets who completed the Buffalo program. There are now more than 70 veterans courts in the U.S.