Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) have been gaining widespread popularity as a tool to divert justice-involved veterans from the criminal justice system. While a step in the right direction, most of these courts categorically exclude violent offenders for eligibility. Many jurisdictions conflate violent offenses with serious offenses, even when many violent offenses lack any physical harm. Additionally, prosecutors wield almost unbridled discretion in determining whether or not someone is charged with an offense considered to be violent, determining VTC eligibility even before a case reaches a sentencing hearing.
This comment argues for admitting veterans convicted of violent offenses into VTCs. This comment compares VTCs that exclude violent offenses with those that include them, and argues that a standard-based approach serves public safety and the needs of a justice-involved veteran better than a rule-based approach that categorically excludes violent offenses.
While the criminal justice system as a whole would benefit from diverting violent offenders, the veteran community has a particular need for such broadened eligibility. Most veterans incarcerated in state systems have been convicted of violent offenses, yet only a modest amount of VTC admissions represent veterans convicted of violent offenses. Additionally, even though the largest ground combat operations of the Global War on Terror have come to an end, there will continue to be justice-involved veterans who will benefit from broader eligibility for VTCs.
Mark Dela Peña,
Veterans Treatment Courts: Broadening Eligibility for Veterans Convicted of Violent Offenses,
Cath. U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.edu/lawreview/vol73/iss1/5