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August 23, 2022

New CCJ commission to examine factors driving veterans' involvement in criminal justice system

As detailed via this press release, the folks at the Council for Criminal Justice today announced its latest impressive initiative focused on better serving those who have served.  Here are the basics: 

The Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) today announced the launch of a national commission to examine why so many military veterans land in jail and prison and produce recommendations for evidence-based policy changes that enhance safety, health, and justice.

Chaired by former U.S. Defense Secretary and U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, the nonpartisan Veterans Justice Commission also includes former defense secretary and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, a former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, two formerly incarcerated veterans, and other top military, veterans, and criminal justice leaders.  Over the next two years, the 15-member Commission will conduct research and gather testimony to assess:

  • the extent and nature of veterans’ involvement in the criminal justice system, and  risk factors that drive it;
  • the adequacy of transitional assistance for veterans as they reenter civilian life, and what strategies could better prevent justice-system involvement; and
  • the nature and effectiveness of the justice system response when veterans break the law, and what other interventions could, or should, occur.

“Criminal justice reform has received significant bipartisan attention in recent years, but the issue of how the system manages the men and women who have served our country has been almost totally absent from the national conversation,” said Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former U.S. senator from Nebraska who served as defense secretary in the Obama Administration. “Service-related trauma and other legacies of deployment push too many veterans on a path toward incarceration. We can and must do more to understand and interrupt that trajectory.”

Roughly 200,000 active-duty service members leave the armed forces each year.  Most transition successfully, demonstrating resilience amid a wide range of risk factors and obstacles.  Others, however, struggle with mental health challenges, substance abuse, homelessness, and criminality.

Roughly one third of veterans report having been arrested and booked into jail at least once in their lives, compared to fewer than one fifth of non-veterans.  According to the most recent national survey, a total of 181,500 veterans were in U.S. prisons and jails.

The reasons underlying veterans’ justice-system involvement are complex, ranging from combat-related risk factors to “bad-paper” discharges that bar VA benefits such as access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, ineffective procedures to identify veterans upon arrest, and inconsistent diversion mechanisms. Once in the system, many veterans do not receive targeted support to address their conditions, reducing the likelihood of successful reentry.

These and other challenges are summarized in an initial assessment report to the Commission and a video, both of which were also released today.

Kudos to CCJ for putting together an amazing team to critically examine the critical questions surrounding just why our veterans tend to be underserved by, and overrepresented in, our criminal justice systems.

August 23, 2022 at 01:42 PM | Permalink

Comments

Veterans are "overrepresented" in the criminal justice system because they tend to be younger males, and that demographic is "overrepresented" with or without veteran status because it commits a grossly disproportionate share of crime, and violent crime in particular.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 24, 2022 7:03:45 PM

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