An article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette announced a new federal Veterans Treatment Court designed to assist military veterans with housing, health and other challenges upon release from prison. According to Keather L. Likins, a VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System outreach specialist, this effort is motivated by “a national push through the Supreme Court to look at justice-involved veterans ... not to give them get-out-of-jail-free cards, but to address the situations that have gotten them involved in the criminal justice system."
The program should be operational following November 11, Veterans Day. Pittsburgh Federal Judge Mark Hornak and Erie Federal Judge Kim Gibson will help to develop and implement the federal Veterans Treatment Court.
According to U.S. Attorney David Hickton, western Pennsylvania has approximately 10% of federal criminal defendants that are veterans. For veterans who qualify, there may be an option instead of court. It would be a limited period of supervision ending with a defendant’s clear record. Upon prison release, there is also a treatment component. The program will set up support services involving many professionals to integrate veterans into society. The court will also have a volunteer veteran mentor component in order to provide social, psychological and emotional support.
Several state veterans courts already exist in Pennsylvania. Both Butler and Allegheny counties replace prison time with treatment for qualifying veterans who have substance abuse or mental health problems.
For more information, there is also an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.