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Do you think some veterans are receiving a “get out of jail free” card? Examining support for Veterans Treatment Court as a function of mental health and offense type

Abstract

Objective

To investigate if and how support for Veterans Treatment Court changed as a consequence of the veteran’s mental health label (PTSD, war injury, no mental illness) and offense type (DUI, DUI with injury, aggravated battery).

Methods

Participants read one of nine fictitious news articles about a veteran recently arrested for a crime, and were then asked questions regarding whether that veteran’s case should be allowed in Veterans Court, stigma of the veteran, and perceptions of this specialty court.

Results

Those who believed the veteran had PTSD were the most supportive of his participation and the least likely to believe the program was a “get out of jail free” card. Additionally, despite including a violent crime, participants across each offense type were supportive of the veteran’s participation in the court.

Conclusions

While some research notes veterans may experience shame because of their PTSD diagnosis, we found that this label resulted in more support for the program. The inclusion of some violent offenses was also supported; however, further research is needed to explore where that backing ends.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There was no question about participant service in the armed forces, only if they personally knew someone who has served.

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Correspondence to Jenna M. Kieckhaefer.

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Kieckhaefer, J.M., Luna, S. Do you think some veterans are receiving a “get out of jail free” card? Examining support for Veterans Treatment Court as a function of mental health and offense type. J Exp Criminol 16, 141–170 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-019-09395-w

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Keywords

  • Veterans Treatment Court
  • Specialty court
  • Veteran
  • PTSD
  • Stigma