A National Study of Veterans Treatment Court Participants: Who Benefits and Who Recidivates

  • Jack Tsai
  • Andrea Finlay
  • Bessie Flatley
  • Wesley J. Kasprow
  • Sean Clark
Original Article


Although there are now over 400 veterans treatment courts (VTCs) in the country, there have been few studies on participant outcomes in functional domains. Using national data on 7931 veterans in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Justice Outreach program across 115 VA sites who entered a VTC from 2011 to 2015, we examined the housing, employment, income, and criminal justice outcomes of VTC participants; and identified veteran characteristics predictive of outcomes. VTC participants spent an average of nearly a year in the program and 14% experienced a new incarceration. From program admission to exit, 10% more participants were in their own housing, 12% more were receiving VA benefits, but only 1% more were employed. Controlling for background characteristics, a history of incarceration predicted poor criminal justice, housing, and employment outcomes. Participants with property offenses or probation/parole violations and those with substance use disorders were more likely to experience a new incarceration. Participants with more mental health problems were more likely to be receiving VA benefits and less likely to be employed at program exit. Together, these findings highlight the importance of proper substance abuse treatment as well as employment services for VTC participants so that they can benefit from the diversion process.


Treatment courts Veterans Homelessness Criminal justice Incarceration 



No specific funding was provided for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare they have no conflicts of interest with this work.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the U.S. government or any federal agency.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


  1. Baldwin, J. M. (2015a). Investigating the programmatic attack: A national survey of veterans treatment courts. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 105(3), 705–751.Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin, J. M. (2015b). Whom do they serve? A national examination of veterans treatment court participants and their challenges. Criminal Justice Policy Review. doi: 10.1177/0887403415606184.Google Scholar
  3. Berg, M. T., & Huebner, B. M. (2011). Reentry and the ties that bind: An examination of social ties, employment, and recidivism. Justice Quarterly, 28(2), 382–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bond, G. R. (2004). Supported employment: Evidence for an evidence-based practice. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 27(4), 345–359.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bronson, J., Carson, A., Noonan, M., & Berzofsky, M. (2015). Veterans in Prison and Jail, 2011–12. Retrieved from
  6. Clark, S., McGuire, J., & Blue-Howells, J. (2010). Development of veterans treatment courts: Local and legislative initiatives. Drug Court Review, 7, 171–208.Google Scholar
  7. Durose, M. R., Cooper, A. D., & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Retrieved from Washington, DC:
  8. Edens, E. L., Kasprow, W., Tsai, J., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2011). Association of substance use and VA service-connected disability benefits with risk of homelessness among veterans. American Journal of Addictions, 20(5), 412–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Flatley, B., Clark, S., Rosenthal, J., & Blue-Howells, J. (2017). Veterans Court Inventory 2016 Update: Characteristics of and VA involvement in Veterans Treatment Courts and other Veteran-focused court programs from the Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist Perspective. Retrieved from Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  10. Hartley, R. D., & Baldwin, J. M. (2016). Waging war on recidivism among justice-involved veterans: An impact evaluation of a large urban veterans treatment court. Criminal Justice Policy Review. doi: 10.1177/0887403414562602 Google Scholar
  11. Knudsen, K. J., & Wingenfeld, S. (2016). A specialized treatment court for veterans with trauma exposure: Implications for the field. Community Mental Health Journal, 52(2), 127–135.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Maestas, N., Mullen, K., & Strand, A. (2012). Does disability insurance receipt discourage work? Using examiner assignment to estimate causal effects of SSDI receipt. Retrieved from Ann Arbor, MI.
  13. McGuire, J. (2007). Closing a front door to homelessness among veterans. Journal of Primary Prevention, 28(3–4), 389–400.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. McGuire, J., Clark, S., Blue-Howells, J., & Coe, C. (2013). An inventory of VA involvement in Veterans courts, dockets and tracks (White paper). Retrieved from
  15. Motivans, M. A. (2015). Federal Justice Statistics, 2012-Statistical Tables. Retrieved from Washington, DC:
  16. National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. (2015). Alcohol, drugs and crime. Retrieved from
  17. Pager, D. (2003). The mark of a criminal record. American Journal of Sociology, 108(5), 937–975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pawłowska-Cyprysiak, K., Konarska, M., & Żołnierczyk-Zreda, D. (2013). Self-perceived quality of life of people with physical disabilities and labour force participation. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 19(2), 185–194.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Raphael, S., & Winter-Ebmer, R. (2001). Identifying the effect of unemployment on crime. Journal of Law and Economics, 44(1), 259–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Russell, R. T. (2009). Veterans treatment court: A proactive approach. New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement, 35, 357–372.Google Scholar
  21. Tsai, J., Flatley, B., Kasprow, W. J., Clark, S., & Finlay, A. (2016). Diversion of veterans with criminal justice involvement to treatment courts: participant characteristics and outcomes. Psychiatric services, 68(4), 375–383. doi: 10.1176/ Scholar
  22. Tsai, J., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2013). Examination of Veterans Affairs disability compensation as a disincentive for employment in a population-based sample of veterans under age 65. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 23(4), 504–512.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Tsai, J., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2016). Psychosis, lack of job skills, and criminal history: Associations with employment in two samples of homeless men. Psychiatric Services, 67(6), 671–675.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Tsai, J., Rosenheck, R. A., Kasprow, W. J., & McGuire, J. F. (2014). Homelessness in a national sample of incarcerated veterans in state and federal prisons. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 41(3), 360–367.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Uggen, C. (2000). Work as a turning point in the life course of criminals: A duration model of age, employment, and recidivism. American Sociological Review, 65(4), 529–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015). Veterans justice outreach. Retrieved from
  27. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016). Vocational rehabilitation and employment. Retrieved from
  28. Western, B., Kling, J. R., & Weiman, D. F. (2001). The labor market consequences of incarceration. Crime & Delinquency, 47(3), 410–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New England Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical CenterVeterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare SystemWest HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Center for Innovation to ImplementationVeterans Affairs Palo Alto Healthcare SystemMenlo ParkUSA
  4. 4.National Center on Homelessness Among VeteransDepartment of Veterans AffairsMenlo ParkUSA
  5. 5.Veterans Justice ProgramsVeterans Health AdministrationPhiladelphiaUSA
  6. 6.National Center on Homelessness Among VeteransDepartment of Veterans AffairsPhiladelphiaUSA
  7. 7.Veterans Affairs Northeast Program Evaluation CenterWest HavenUSA
  8. 8.Veterans Justice ProgramsVeterans Health AdministrationLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations