If You Build It, Will Vets Come? An Identity Theory Approach to Expanding Veterans’ Treatment Court Participation

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Department 1

Public Policy


Veterans’ treatment courts (VTCs) provide a veteran-centric diversion option to traditional court case processing. These courts have proliferated across the United States without much consideration about whether veterans want, or need, a specialty court. In this article, we investigate the underlying importance of a veteran identity in the decision to enroll in a VTC. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews with veterans, we identify four primary implications for practitioners. First, veterans are ashamed of their criminal justice involvement. Second, they are concerned about increased punitiveness by criminal justice actors, particularly law enforcement, because of their veteran status. Third, veterans perceive the VTC process to bestow upon them stigma and retaliation. Fourth, veterans resist VTC involvement for fear of dishonoring their branch of service. To expand enrollment, results demonstrate that practitioners should consider how veterans reconcile their veteran and offender identities when considering VTC enrollment.



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