NAACP Supports the Establishment and Increased Use of Specialized Veterans' Treatment Courts
WHEREAS, while most Veterans are strengthened by their military service, the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury among other specialized challenges; and
WHEREAS, as a result, one in five Veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment; one in six Veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffers from a substance abuse issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness; and
WHEREAS, in 2011 there were 21.5 million Veterans in the United States; of these, 2.3 million, or almost 11%, were African American; and
WHEREAS, in January, 2008, a Veterans Treatment Court was established after a local judge in Buffalo, NY, noticed an increase in the number of Veterans appearing on his drug and mental health court dockets; and
WHEREAS, this judge, the Hon. Robert Russell, also saw first-hand the transformative power of military camaraderie when Veterans on his staff assisted a Veteran in one of his treatment courts; and
WHEREAS, Judge Russell also noticed that more could and should be done to help Veterans receive services offered to Veterans by local agencies; and
WHEREAS, today, Veterans' Courts involve cooperation and collaboration with traditional partners, such as the prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider, probation officers, and law enforcement, as well as representatives of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefit Administration- as well as State Departments of Veterans Affairs, Vet Centers, Veterans Service Organizations, Department of Labor, volunteer Veteran Mentors, and other Veterans support groups; and
WHEREAS, a Veterans Treatment Court judge better understands the issues that a Veteran may be struggling with, such as substance addiction, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and military sexual trauma, and is usually better versed than other justices on the resources available to Veterans in their communities; and
WHEREAS, as of June 30, 2012 there are 104 Veterans Treatment Courts in our country with hundreds more in the planning stages; and
WHEREAS, because a Veterans Treatment Court judge handles numerous Veterans' cases and is supported by a strong, interdisciplinary team, he or she is in a much better position to exercise discretion and effectively respond to the unique challenges facing Veteran defendants; and
WHEREAS, Veterans Treatment Courts admit only those Veterans with a clinical diagnosis of a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder; and
WHEREAS, the Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol); and
WHEREAS, the Veterans Treatment Court is able to ensure that our nation's criminal justice system is better able to serve those who have served their nation.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly support Veterans' Treatment Courts to help Veterans who may have substance abuse issues transition back to civilian life and become productive members of society; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls on all local branch Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, in coordination with the branch Criminal Justice Committee, to advocate for establishing or enhancing Veterans Treatment Courts in their area.