Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Justice and Human Services

First Advisor

Lenore E. Walker

Second Advisor

Ginger Lerner-Wren

Third Advisor

Abigail S. Tucker

Abstract

The intended goals of Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) are consistent with what drove the establishment of Drug Courts and Mental Health Courts in the ‘90s. That is, a recognition that the traditional criminal justice system is geared toward punitive court dispositions; not the unique characteristics of addicts and/or mental health defendants (G. Lerner-Wren, personal communication, January 12, 2015). For example, In Dade County, Florida, a former U.S. Attorney, then the Dade County State Attorney, recognized that reform was necessary to avoid the criminalization of drug addiction; given the high prevalence of cocaine abuse. Today, U.S. Military Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a highly unique and challenging set of medical, psychological, neurological, and social adjustment problems. Like onto their forbearers, VTCs were created to: (1) address these very unique issues; and (2) where possible, avoid punishing U.S. Military Veterans for crimes, which may have been committed as a direct result of their illnesses (e.g., Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)). One such VTC notes its mission “is to promote public safety and assist and support [U.S. Military V]eterans and their families by creating a coordinated response through collaboration with the [U.S. Military V]eterans’ service delivery system, community-based services, and the criminal justice system” (Holbrook, n.d., para. 1). However, little research has been accomplished to ascertain whether VTCs are accomplishing their intended goals. Indeed, while many programs and/or organizations have been created to assist U.S. Military Veterans (e.g., the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wounded Warrior Project, etc.), many have arguably fallen short of achieving their mission and/or vision statements. That is to say, while their intentions are almost always good, one is left to wonder whether some level of pretextualism exists. To that end, what follows is a brief review of the literature on therapeutic jurisprudence, problem-solving courts, mental health courts, and how they are influencing today’s VTCs. Thereafter, a program evaluation, utilizing the evaluative methodology model, is employed to ascertain: (1) whether VTCs are meeting their articulated and/or established goals; (2) the effectiveness of VTCs with regard to their intended clients (i.e., U.S. Military Veterans); and (3) whether an element of pretextualism exists with respect to VTCs. Data was collected from three operating VTCs (e.g., publications, public records, websites, etc.). The research informs: (1) an element of pretextualism exists with regard to VTCs; (2) the intentions of VTC judges are noble; and (3) VTCs realize their intended goals more often than not. That is to say, VTCs are generally meeting the needs of U.S. Military Veterans who meet their strict eligibility requirements.