January 01, 2017

Unconventional Rehabilitation: Military Members’ Right to Veterans Treatment Court

By Daniel R. Devoy

You have the right to remain silent. . . . You have the right to an attorney. . . . Are you a military veteran?” If you are arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this is what you will hear after you are read your Miranda rights.1 In Tulsa and in more than 300 law enforcement jurisdictions in the United States, being a military veteran entitles a person to participate in an alternative court, a veterans treatment court.2 As unique as it sounds, arrested military veterans can chose to go to veterans treatment court rather than face punishment in the traditional criminal justice system.

As the longest war in American history is concluding in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 2.6 million military members have returned home.3 Nearly half suffer from mental health or physical injuries4 and one-fifth will be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).5 These issues make it difficult for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life and may lead to homelessness, unemployment, arrest, or worse.

Nearly 700,000 veterans are in the criminal justice system.6 Many of the charges involve alleged conduct caused by, or associated with, addiction or mental health injuries.7 Traditionally, the criminal justice system in the United States has concentrated on punishment to alter behavior. This model, however, has been particularly unsuccessful when applied to military veterans.

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