When a Veterans’ Treatment Court Fails: Lessons Learned from a Qualitative Evaluation

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1

Public Policy


More than 500 veterans treatment courts (VTCs) provide thousands of eligible veterans across the nation alternative means of resolving criminal charges through a therapeutic, judicially supervised programs. The majority of those VTCs mandate that veteran participants work with a volunteer veteran mentor throughout their tenure in VTC programs. Mentoring has been heralded as a critical and valuable component of VTCs, and it is believed that mentoring discourages substance abuse and promotes adherence to substance abuse interventions. But very little is known about how mentoring actually works. Scant research documents how mentors interact with mentees, what their responsibilities are, or what impact they have on veterans’ progress through rigorous VTC protocols. Through interview data collected following the death of a veteran mentee in a northeastern Study VTC, this research provides in-depth analysis of how mentors and mentees understand their responsibilities with respect to illicit substance use and violations of VTCs’ sobriety requirements. This article provides background data on VTCs and veterans who participate in them, then explores interview and documentary data as part of a case study of a policy failure in the Study VTC. The article concludes with recommendations that could improve mentor/mentee relationships and VTC participants’ access to treatment.



Required Publisher's Statement

This article is available on the publisher's website: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15564886.2019.1595248

This item is not available in The Cupola.