Sending Support for Our Soldiers

 “For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.” – Unknown

VeteransMonthThis month as we celebrate our veterans, we take a moment as a nation to thank the soldiers for their service of ensuring our freedom and safety. We would also like to acknowledge and thank those who continue to support our veterans once they return home.

Our first shout out goes to the Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans emerging back into civilian life may face several challenges, such as PTSD and substance misuse. VA’s National Center for PTSD created a series of short videos for patients and providers to help recognize the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  PTSD threatens our vets with the risk of developing alcohol and other substance dependence. The short videos help highlight treatment options, including cognitive processing therapy and medicated assisted treatment.  In addition, recognizing the nation’s opioid crisis and use of opioids for veterans in managing pain, the VA created an Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) which provides guidelines to physicians on opioid therapy for chronic pain. The OSI toolkit includes a host of resources for both clinicians and patients on topics such as responsible use of opioids for chronic pain, effective treatment for PTSD, cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain, etc.

Our second shout out goes to the Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs). For veterans who come into contact with the justice system, one of the ways that our society stands by them is through VTCs. These courts are designed to serve veterans facing substance use and mental health disorders and have come in contact with the justice system through structure, treatment, and mentoring. VTCs are modeled after drug courts, which follow the National Association of Drug Court Professional Drug Court’s Ten Key Components with the added caveat of (1) peer to peer mentorship with another military service member and (2) connecting veterans to services available to them through the VA. These important distinctions create a space for veterans seeking treatment and provide a structured environment to get their lives back on track. Similar to adult drug treatment courts, VTCs provide wraparound services to assist veterans with housing, education, parenting skills, career placement, and counseling. The ultimate goal for the court team members is to be a resource for veterans as they work through their substance use and mental health treatment.

Our final shout out goes to Judge Robert Russell. Judge Russell opened the doors of the first VTC in 2008 in Buffalo, New York. Since then over 300 VTCs have emerged throughout the United States and many more are in the planning stages. Having seen anecdotal success, VTCs have peaked researchers’ interest and are starting to be studied. Our first edition of Drug Court Review will feature VTCs and present research findings on topics such as VTC participant identification, importance of peer mentorship in VTCs, issues dealing with procedural justice, legitimacy, and legalizing treatment, and a legal commentary on prosecutorial veto in VTCs. This review, conducted under JPO’s National Drug Court Resource Center will be released this winter. As you read the drug court review on VTCs, you’ll see this is just the beginning and there’s a dire need for further research into VTCs.

Our office continues to support veterans by being a resource for treatment court professionals. I encourage you to look for ways you can directly or indirectly support veterans as well.

Preeti Menon is the Justice Programs Office’s senior associate director and project director of the National Drug Court Resource Center

Community Approaches to Public Safety on Halloween

My first Halloween experience was when I was 12 years old. As a recently arrived immigrant to the United States, Halloween was a uniquely American experience for me and it was thrilling to discover haunted houses, carved Picture of pumpkinspumpkins, and elaborate costumes. I still remember staying up late on Halloween and trading candy with my siblings after trick-or-treating. Today, I feel like I am a pro at Halloween, I have a collection of cute decorations, I create jack-o-lanterns, I plan my kids’ costumes, and I make sure my house has the best candy on the block. As an adult, I still appreciate the innocent Halloween fun, but I am also aware of the public safety challenges this celebration can pose. This includes keeping kids safe as they explore en masse, protecting pedestrians and drivers, and preventing intentional mischief that could result in serious harm.

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A Discussion on Criminal Justice Reform with Mark Holden

Bill Keller and Mark Holden a Smart on Crime
Bill Keller and Mark Holden speaking at Smart on Crime

Last week was the first time I heard Mark Holden, the senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Koch Industries, Inc., speak about criminal justice reform. He was interviewed by Bill Keller, the editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, during a session titled, “A Conversation on State Progress,” at the Smart on Crime summit hosted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The Center for American Progress, and Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.

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Perceptions of Crime

PM's take on perception of crime

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of perception is “a result of perceiving,” “a mental image,” “awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation,” “quick, acute, and intuitive cognition,” or “a capacity for comprehension.” Perceptions are the way that we understand something and are often based on our knowledge of real events or our own life experiences. When it comes to our understanding of crime, our perceptions of crime can be based on experiencing crime as a victim ourselves, what we know about the criminal activity in our community from local news or conversations with neighbors, listening to political conversations about crime, or reading stories about criminal activity on social media.

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Healing While Defending Right to Counsel

Preeti Menon R2C sign

For those who work in the treatment court field, how often is a public defender part of your drug treatment court team? If your answer is “sometimes,” “not often,” or “not at all,” please continue to read. If your answer is “always,” kudos to you; please share this blog post and your stories with us.

Drug treatment courts use a specialized model for people facing criminal drug charges who live with serious substance use and mental health disorders. Drug court teams, which comprise members of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social services, and treatment communities, work together to help addicted offenders get into long-term recovery. As part of the drug treatment court team, public defenders participate in the team meetings and often provides input in his/her client’s treatment plan.

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Luck or Hard Work

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Last year, the annual National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) conference was held in Washington, D.C., in June.  The Justice Programs Office presents at the conference every year and we bring many of our resources with us to share with the treatment court field. One of the most popular tools is a thumb drive pre-loaded with a library of digital resources for drug court practitioners.  I attended the conference last year as a newly appointed Project Director for the National Drug Court Resource Center, a project funded by Bureau of Justice Assistance, and we had just completed the planning phase for many of the project’s initiatives.  During the conference, I came across a dollar that I deemed to be my drug court lucky dollar.  I have carried this dollar with me in my phone case over the last year and would like to share the successes we have had since.

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Explaining Criminal Justice Reform to a Six-Year Old

KKM's drawing depicting R2C

For young kids, learning about careers usually means learning about teachers, doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers, etc. So, a couple of years ago, when my then six-year-old son asked me to describe what I do, I really had to think about it. As well as being the project director of the National Drug Court Resource Center, my work at the Justice Programs Office (JPO) encompasses other areas of the criminal justice policy field.

This is how I answered him:

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Supporting Treatment Courts Over the Years

I am tasked with surveying women who are participants in a family treatment court. The survey questionnaire is lengthy and may seem daunting in paper form, so I’ve been instructed to administer it in person. I handwrite the answers during hour and a half long interviews. Sometimes the interviews last even longer, depending upon the emotional state of the participant. Aside from reading reports on emerging problem-solving courts, this is my first experience inside a family treatment court. It is 1999, and I am working as a research associate for a study on Manhattan Family Treatment Courts while attending graduate school at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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