Advocates for criminal justice reform have long argued that, for many offenders, treatment and support are more effective and more just than simple punishment. Although the justice system is resistant to change, this idea has caught on, particularly regarding military veterans whose offenses are likely tied to post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions related to their service.
In 2008, New York introduced the first Veterans Treatment Court in the nation, and many states have followed suit. This includes New Jersey, which has a Veterans Diversion Program. Instead of incarceration, eligible veterans are allowed to participate in a two-year program that connects them with resources like counseling, behavioral health care and substance abuse treatment.
A clear need for a different approach
In a recent Psychology Today article, the author spoke about his own experiences. Like many vets, he suffers from PTSD, which can lead to destructive actions and coping behaviors that manifest as criminal acts. These include things like drug abuse, drunk driving, domestic violence and assault and battery. He was grateful for the opportunity to participate in a veterans treatment program in 2018 with 18 other vets, nearly all of whom had committed crimes related to substance abuse.
Do you qualify for participation?
Not everyone will meet the qualifications for participation in New Jersey’s Veterans Diversion Program. But if you have served and are now facing charges, it is an important option to explore. An experienced defense attorney can discuss your case with you and help you determine eligibility and participation.