Veterans Incarcerated Committee
BY TP HUBERT, CHAIR
VIN-2 VVA Chapter and State Council Relationships with Veterans Incarcerated resolves that VVA support veterans involved with the criminal justice system. Incarcerated vet-eran groups and chapters continue to flourish in many states. New VVA chapters are forming in Alabama, California, and Oregon. Arizona VIC Chair Zorn Farrell has a startup package for veterans in a private prison in Kingman. Chapter 205 at the Auburn Correctional Facility has had its IRS suspension lifted and is fully compliant with VVA requirements.
VIN-3 Veterans Incarcerated Benefits and Entitlement resolves that the VA provide medical treatment and counseling services with special emphasis on PTSD and service-related disabilities. It further urges the VA to work closer with federal, state, and local correctional facilities to promote veteran rehabilitation.
VIN-6 PTSD Treatment of Incarcerated Veterans acknowledges the importance of providing PTSD treatment and counseling programs for veterans incarcerated. VVA believes the VA should be the sole provider of PTSD treatment.
These two resolutions are strongly supported by the PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee. VVA is committed to obtaining these basic medical, mental health, and service-connected disability benefits earned by veterans incarcerated. Lack of veteran-specific treatment and counseling has been recognized by federal judges in sentencing veteran offenders facing mandatory sentences.
VIN-4 PTSD and Parole/Clemency supports sentence mitigation efforts for veterans imprisoned to excessively lengthy terms for offenses attributable to PTSD-related behaviors. The committee supports S.1410/H.R.3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013, which requires the Attorney General to review sentencing guidelines and promulgate new ones that address public safety concerns and racial disparities. The committee chairs and state presidents will lobby for this act in April, seeking VVA's testimony before the U.S. Sentencing Commission and at Judiciary Committee hearings. The committee has been asked to endorse the Council of State Governments Justice Centercallingforthereauthorizationof the Second Chance Act of 2005 (H.R.1704), which we supported in the past. Both bills would go a long way toward helping incarcerated veterans serving offenses that precluded veteran court availability.
Federal Reentry Court programs already operate for higher-risk federal prisoners. These courts can be readily adapted for veterans and substantially supported by VA transitional funds and services.
VIN-5 Retention of Benefits For Incarcerated Veterans resolves that VVA urge the government to amend the Code of Federal Regulations, which requires reduction of payments to veterans incarcerated with service-connected disabilities who become incarcerated for more than sixty days. It challenges Congress to restore full compensation payments to eligible veterans incarcerated. VVA firmly believes the current law unfairly penalizes veterans.
Planning for Your Release
Justice For Vets Launches New Website to Improve Services to Justice-Involved Veterans
In our ongoing commitment to ensure every justice-involved veteran receive the help they need, Justice for Vets is honored to announce the launch of its newest online resource, www.JusticeForVets.org.
Veterans and the Justice System
As increasing numbers of combat veterans return from duty overseas, more needs to be done on helping these individuals adapt back to community life. Without adequate supports to ensure that these veterans are receiving appropriate mental health care many will go on to develop trauma-related disorders. With as many as 17 percent of returning veterans developing PTSD and other mental illnesses, the need for proactive initiatives becomes more and more apparent. When these disorders go untreated, there is an increased risk that these veterans will become involved in the justice system.
Gambill on Justice
In the public response to Iraq-Afghanistan veterans returning to society and ending up in our justice systems there has been much that has been taken for granted. The desire to compensate for the shortcomings manifest in our prior responses to the return of Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans led us to assume a great deal without really pinning down our understanding of the problem or problems involved. In the public eye, the Veterans Treatment Courts have become the public response to the wave of returning veterans ending up in Justice in the wake of the current conflicts. I do not agree with this assessment. I believe Veterans Courts are merely one response, yet by no means the ideal response.
To support VVA's philosophy and principles on a wide range of issues, the VVA Constitution establishes a number of key standing committees. The Veterans Incarcerated Committee function and purpose is described therein as follows:
The VVA Strategic Plan, approved by the VVA Board of Directors in 1996, further defines the Committee's functions, and this is detailed in the Committee's mission statement and work plan.
Provide benefits and services not currently being provided to veterans incarcerated by researching Department of Corrections Regulations for each state which might enable us to implement new programs for veterans and by building cooperation at the Department of Veterans Affairs.