Denham bill would help keep veterans out of criminal justice system

U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) on Friday introduced the Veterans Treatment Court Coordination Act, bipartisan legislation that would better serve the unique needs of veterans charged with non-violent crimes.

H.R. 4345 would direct the U.S. Attorney General to establish treatment courts to provide a means of keeping veterans with service-connected substance abuse or mental health problems out of the criminal justice system and getting them into support and treatment programs.

The California Central Valley has successful and effective veterans treatment courts in place, according to Denham’s office.

Noting the role of Veterans Day in recognizing veterans’ service and special needs, Denham said, “It is important to take this opportunity to not only thank our veterans, but also take steps toward giving back to those who have worn the cloth of this nation.” Denham added, “Making it easier to set up veteran treatment courts across the nation will help keep veterans in crisis out of the criminal justice system and give them the help they need and deserve.”

The bill would create a Veterans Treatment Court Program coordinator within the U.S. Department of Justice who would work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish veterans treatment courts across the nation through grants, training, and technical assistance. With treatment courts, veterans are able to remain in their communities while a judge monitors their progress while in treatment, according to the VA.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced the bipartisan bill with Denham.

“We owe our veterans the very best care and service, but too often their unique needs and challenges are not met by the traditional criminal justice system. By bringing federal resources to this issue, we can help more veterans in difficult situations get back on their feet and thrive,” Crist said.

Veterans treatment courts were established in 2008 and are modeled after mental health courts and drug treatment courts, according to Denham’s office.