Florida lawmakers joined a growing trend last year when they allowed the establishment of Veterans Courts if approved by the chief judge of the circuit. But some Florida judges were already dealing with veterans issues separately on their daily dockets.
The success of Veterans courts was noted this week by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki at an inaugural conference for Veterans Treatment Courts held by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals in Washington D.C.
Part of Shinseki’s speech:
For Veterans entering the justice system who are already dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues, we have established Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO)—172 full-time specialists, working directly with justice officials, to see that Veterans who are before the court or already in jail get the care they need and that courts are supported in their consideration of best possible alternatives to incarceration. We are also working to connect our VJO specialists with American Indian tribal justice systems to do the same thing.
In their first year, 2010, VJO specialists served 5,800 Veterans. This year, that number is up to nearly 36,000 Veterans, and we plan to hire another 75 specialists next year.
The core of the Veterans Treatment Courts is first the judge who is familiar with issues some veterans struggle with like traumatic brain injury and PTSD and it offers a team approach for defendant to receive support and services from veterans groups, VA specialists and social support experts.