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NIJ's Multisite Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts

Extensive research indicates that a distinct constellation of issues and needs may be related to military service or training, and that veterans have a higher prevalence of specific challenges shown to be related to illegal or hostile behavior, potentially increasing their risk for contact with the criminal justice system. Of all the publicly funded responses to the intertwined problems of crime, mental illness, trauma, and substance misuse among veterans, the most recent programmatic innovation has been the rapid rise and diffusion of the veterans treatment court (VTC). VTCs are a type of problem-solving court program that targets offenders with a history of military service (military veterans and servicemembers). Their purpose is to address their participants’ unique needs and the underlying causes of their criminal behavior through services and treatment, as well as enhanced supervision. VTCs aim to improve participants’ quality of life, reduce recidivism, and improve community safety. There are now over 600 VTCs and veteran-focused court programs operating in the majority of states in the U.S. Although VTCs continue to rapidly propagate, empirical research on these programs is significantly lacking.

The purpose of this study was to better understand the various VTC program structures, policies, and procedures/practices, populations served (substance misuse, mental health issues), and basic program and participant outcomes (graduation and termination rates, and recidivism in terms of arrest, respectively). We conducted a comprehensive longitudinal multisite process, implementation, and short-term outcome evaluation to address four general research questions:

  1. What are the structure of the VTC programs?
  2. What are the policies and procedures of the VTC programs?
  3. What populations are the VTCs serving?
  4. What are the basic program and participant outcomes?

This study is exploratory in nature and examined a convenience sample of eight VTC programs across three Southern states (Florida, North Carolina, and Texas) between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2019. We triangulated information collected through program document review, researcher observation and survey, participant interviews, and VTC team member surveys across the eight sites, as well as data from archival records on participant characteristics and program status provided by seven of the VTC programs.

The project deliverables include a final report, executive summary, data package (methods write-up, data sets, code books), presentations (practitioner-oriented and scholarly), and peer-reviewed articles (academic and practitioner).

  • “Results of NIJ’s Multisite Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts.” (Upcoming – Aug 2021). Baldwin, Hartley, Stewart, and Truitt at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Annual Training Conference in National Harbor, MD.

  • “NIJ's Multisite Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts: Sanctions and Incentives Research.” (2019). Baldwin, Hartley, Truitt, Rumley, and Elkins at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Annual Training Conference in National Harbor, MD.

  • “Hitting the Target: Models of Screening and Admission in Veterans Treatment Courts.” (2019). Baldwin and Hartley at the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA.

  • “Do We Agree on Our Weaknesses?: A Study of Team Members' Ratings of Fidelity in Veterans Treatment Courts.” (2019). Vaske and Baldwin at the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA.

  • “Analyzing Sanctioning Policies and Implementation Fidelity: Results from Phase 1 of NIJ’s Multi-Site Evaluation of VTCs.” (2018). Baldwin and Hartley at the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA.

  • “Process Results from NIJ’s Multi-Site Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts.” (2018). Baldwin, Hartley, Brooke, and Vaske at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA.

  • “Admission and Operation Results from NIJ’s Multisite Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts.” (2018). Baldwin, Hartley, Truitt, and Grajczyk at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Annual Training Conference in Houston, TX.

  • “NIJ’s Multi-site Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts: Preliminary Results on Program Similarities, Differences, and Challenges.” (2017). Baldwin, Hartley, and Vaske at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Annual Training Conference in National Harbor, MD.

This project was supported by Award No. 2015-VV-BX-K020, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the Department of Justice.

Project Contact Information

Dr. Julie Marie Baldwin
Research Faculty
Department of Justice, Law & Criminology
School of Public Affairs
American University
Tel: (904) 382=5484
jbaldwin@american.edu